Even more than a week after the devastating flood disaster in Libya, the situation in the east of the country is still very confusing. While rescue and recovery work is underway, authorities are taking new measures to get the disaster under control. According to the Al-Marsad news site, the eastern government’s health ministry said the badly affected port city of Darna had been divided into three zones. Meanwhile, the risk of disease outbreaks continues to grow.

The worst-hit area in Darna was declared uninhabitable. It was said that only rescue teams were allowed to enter it. The “fragile zone” – another area that was heavily flooded with water – also poses a danger to residents. The third and final zone was declared safe and habitable by the ministry.

Journalists should leave disaster areas

At the same time, journalists and activists report that they were asked to leave the disaster areas. A journalist from the Saudi television channel Al-Hadath said all journalists should leave Darna by midday on Tuesday. The authorities in the east cited a possible hindrance to rescue work and the risk of collapsing buildings as the reason. It is sometimes assumed that reports of a demonstration the evening before could have been the trigger. The interior minister of the government in the east, Issam Abu Sariba, told Al-Hadath that journalists were working in the city as usual.

As the clean-up work progresses, anger among citizens also increases: Hundreds of angry people demanded in front of a mosque in the center of the devastated port city on Monday evening that those responsible for the disaster be held accountable, as footage from the Libyan TV channel Al-Masar showed. According to eyewitnesses, demonstrators tried to set fire to the house of now-suspended mayor Abdel-Monim al-Ghaiti.

“The dam was only made of sand and stones”

As a result of Storm Daniel, two dams in Darna burst. Entire quarters of the city, which has a population of 100,000, were washed away by the floodwaters. The authorities are accused of not maintaining the dams properly and thus contributing to the disaster. The public prosecutor’s office began investigations.

According to an expert, at least one of the two dams was made of earth and not cement. “The dam that collapsed was only made of sand and stones,” wrote Claudia Gazzini of the think tank International Crisis Group at X, formerly Twitter. “The control tower and the huge sewer were made of cement, and both are still standing.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 4,000 fatalities have been identified. The government in the east put the number of officially registered deaths at 3,338. Tens of thousands of people were left homeless as a result of the disaster.

Water sources heavily contaminated

The severe flooding has also left the water sources in the disaster region heavily contaminated with sewage. Thousands of people no longer have access to clean drinking water. The aid organization International Rescue Committee (IRC) warned urgently of a “rapidly expanding health crisis”, especially in Darna. Dozens of children have already become ill because of contaminated water, it was said.

The United Nations was also concerned. In particular, contaminated water and poor sanitation increased the risk of disease outbreaks, said a statement released on Monday by UNSMIL, the UN mission in Libya. United Nations teams were working to prevent a “second devastating crisis in the region” and the spread of disease. The EU pledged a further 5.2 million euros in humanitarian aid to Libya. The USA is also providing a further 11 million dollars (10 million euros).

Libya is effectively divided into two parts. The civil war country has a government in the West that is internationally recognized. In the east, where Storm Daniel caused particularly great damage, a different government that is not internationally recognized is in power. The de facto division makes rescue operations more difficult.