Most of the thousands of deaths in the Libya floods could have been avoided if early warning systems and evacuation plans had been in place, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has said.
The WMO’s secretary-general, Petteri Taalas, said that “warnings should have been issued, leading to evacuations, and we could have avoided most of the human casualties.”
The mayor of the eastern city of Derna, Abdelrahman al-Hattab, estimates that between 18,000 and 20,000 people have died in the floods. After two dams failed, whole neighbourhoods were swept away in the torrents.
The WMO has said that the floods were caused by a combination of factors, including heavy rainfall, climate change and poor infrastructure. Taalas warned that climate change is making extreme weather events more frequent and severe.
“We need to invest in early warning systems and disaster preparedness so that we can save lives when these events do occur,” he said.
The Libyan government has declared a state of emergency and has appealed for international aid. The UN and other aid agencies are working to provide food, water and shelter to those affected by the floods.
The Libyan floods are a stark reminder of the dangers of climate change and the importance of investing in early warning systems and disaster preparedness.