“What made the scene so unreal was the silence.” Mohamed Mneina had been standing on the Al Sheiha hill above the city of Derna since the morning on Sunday, the day of the great flood. The family has been growing vegetables here for several generations. When the authorities warned of what could be the strongest storm ever recorded, the Mneinas sought shelter here on their small farm.

“I briefly thought about documenting the storm with my camera from my small photo studio in the center, but that seemed too dangerous,” says the 34-year-old.

Years ago, he documented the insurgents’ fight against Gaddafi and the years of chaos that followed for the Reuters news agency and other media. His hometown of Derna also fell into chaos after the death of the long-term ruler. In 2014, the Islamic State occupied the port city, which was then inhabited by around 60,000 residents. Mmeina also witnessed how Field Marshal Khalifa Hafter’s army drove out radical Islamists in 2018 after months of siege and urban warfare. “Many of my friends, like me, lost faith in authorities during these years; we learned to get along and survive on our own,” says Mneina.

Anyone who, like the Mneinas, did not own a house or property on the plateau above the city sought shelter on the day of the flood in the high-rise buildings in the city center surrounded by mountains. Several twelve-story houses have been built in the densely built-up city center in recent years. “Many people stocked up on higher floors with food and water. After everything that has happened to us in the last few years, many people did not want to leave their homes because of a storm for fear of looters,” says Meina.

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