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Libya floods: PM takes shared responsibility for dam failures

Abdul-Hamid Dbeibah, Head of the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity, on Sep. 14, 2023.   -  
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Libya’s Tripoli-based Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah on Thursday acknowledged issues in the maintenance of two dams that burst, causing devastating floods that killed over 5,000 people.

In a Cabinet meeting, Dbeibah said the state of the dams that collapsed in last week's powerful storm had not been addressed "for decades".

"Now, we have discovered through documents from the Ministry of Planning that we have contracts and maintenance agreements, but they have not been utilised," he said.

The two dams that collapsed outside Derna were built in the 1970s.

A report by a state-run audit agency in 2021 said the dams had not been maintained despite the allocation of more than 2 million euros for that purpose in 2012 and 2013.

"In one way or another, I believe that we all bear responsibility, all Libyans. However, I, as your leader, bear the primary responsibility, and you, as the Ministry of Water, share in this responsibility," Dbeibah said.

"Not the responsibility for people's deaths but the responsibility for managing these dams, overseeing them, and maintaining them."

Libya remains divided between two rival administrations, one in the east and one in the west, each backed by militias and foreign governments.

Health officials have confirmed 5,500 deaths and say 9,000 people are still missing.

While many towns in eastern Libya saw deadly flooding, Derna, renowned for its white villas and palm trees, was the worst-hit.

Derna, about 900 kilometers (560 miles) east of the capital, Tripoli, is controlled by the forces of powerful military commander Khalifa Hifter, who is allied with the eastern Libyan government.

The rival government in western Libya, based in Tripoli, is allied with other armed groups.

The disaster brought a rare moment of unity, as government agencies across the country rushed to help the affected areas.

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