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Libya Jails Officials for Dam Collapse 09/25 06:41

   

   CAIRO (AP) -- Libya's chief prosecutor said Monday he ordered the detention 
of eight current and former officials pending his investigation into the 
collapse of two dams earlier this month, a disaster that sent a wall of water 
several meters high through the center of a coastal city and left thousands of 
people dead.

   The two dams outside the city of Derna broke up on Sep. 11 after they were 
overwhelmed by Storm Daniel, which caused heavy rain across eastern Libya. The 
failure of the structures inundated as much as a quarter of the city, officials 
have said, destroying entire neighborhoods and sweeping people out to sea.

   Government officials and aid agencies have given estimated death tolls 
ranging from more than 4,000 to over 11,000. The bodies of many of the people 
killed still are under rubble or in the Mediterranean, according to search 
teams.

   A statement by the office of General Prosecutor al-Sidiq al-Sour said 
prosecutors on Sunday questioned seven former and current officials with the 
Water Resources Authority and the Dams Management Authority over allegations 
that mismanagement, negligence and mistakes contributed to the disaster.

   Derna Mayor Abdel-Moneim al-Ghaithi, who was sacked after the disaster, was 
also questioned, the statement said.

   Prosecutors ordered the eight to be jailed pending the investigation, the 
statement added.

   The dams were built by a Yugoslav construction company in the 1970s above 
Wadi Derna, a river valley which divides the city. They were meant to protect 
the city from flash floods, which are not uncommon in the area. The dams were 
not maintained for decades, despite warnings by scientists that they may burst.

   A report by a state-run audit agency in 2021 said the two dams hadn't been 
maintained despite the allocation of more than $2 million for that purpose in 
2012 and 2013.

   A Turkish firm was contracted in 2007 to carry out maintenance on the two 
dams and to build a third one in between them. The firm, Arsel Construction 
Company Ltd., said on its website that it completed its work in November 2012. 
It didn't respond to an email seeking further comment.

   Two weeks on, local and international teams were still digging through mud 
and hollowed-out buildings, looking for bodies. They also combing the 
Mediterranean off Derna, searching for boding swept away in the floods.

   The floods have left as many as a third of Derna's housing and 
infrastructure damaged, according to the U.N.'s Office for Coordination of 
Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA. Authorities have evacuated the most impacted 
part of the city, leaving only search and ambulance teams, OCHA said.

   The World Health Organization says more than 4,000 deaths have been 
registered dead, including foreigners, but a previous death toll given by the 
head of Libya's Red Crescent was at 11,300. The U.N. Office for the 
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says at least 9,000 people are still 
missing.

   The storm hit other areas in eastern Libya, including the towns of Bayda, 
Susa, Marj and Shahatt. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in the 
region and took shelter in schools and other government buildings.

   The questioning and jailing of officials were a first crucial step by the 
chief prosecutor in his investigation which is likely to face daunting 
challenges due to the country's yearslong division.

   Since 2014, eastern Libya has been under the control of Gen. Khalifa Hifter 
and his self-styled Libyan National Army. A rival government, based in the 
capital, Tripoli, controls most national funds and oversees infrastructure 
projects. Neither tolerates dissent.

   The Supreme Council of State, an advisory body based in Tripoli, has called 
for a "thorough international investigation," echoing a call by many residents 
across Libya. Such call mirrors the deep mistrust in state institutions.

 
 
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