Unprepared: Thousands Perish in Libya Overnight

By Shenalyn Page | Posted September 19, 2023

A light rain began to fall on the northern coast of Libya on September 9, but it didn’t take long for Storm Daniel to ramp up. Wind and rain pummeled the area throughout the night, creating miles-long lakes in areas that are typically desert this time of year and a flash flood that has claimed thousands of lives.

In the port city of Derna, rains quickly filled the wadi, a dry riverbed, that runs through its center. That in itself isn’t unusual; residents are used to seeing the river flow at certain times of the year. But floodwaters rose rapidly as the night wore on. At the same time, government officials urged residents to stay in their homes. 

Amna Al Ameen Absais, a 23-year-old medical student, and her younger siblings made their way to the upper floors of their apartment building as the waters continued rising. Then, at about 2:00 am, they heard an “explosion”—two dams upstream from the city had given way, releasing the equivalent of 12,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools into the sleeping city. Whole neighborhoods were washed away in the rushing wall of water.

Amna and her siblings watched in horror as their neighbor’s building collapsed. “It felt like an earthquake,” Amna said. “That family still hasn’t been found.”

“A wave 7 meters [23 feet] high wiped out buildings and washed infrastructure into the sea,” says Yann Fridez, head of the Libya delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which had a team in Derna when the floodwaters hit. “Now family members are missing, dead bodies are washing back up on shore, and homes are destroyed.”

Rescue Efforts Hampered by Political Division

According to the United Nations, the death toll is now at 11,300 people. At least 10,000 are still missing; 30,000 more have been displaced. These numbers are expected to continue to rise.

A week later, search and rescue teams are still combing through the rubble for survivors, yet the chance of finding anyone alive diminishes with every hour that passes. Bodies are being found among the remains of twisted cars, palm fronds, and broken concrete. Mass graves are being used to bury the dead. 

Efforts to help and get aid to survivors have been slowed by damage to infrastructure caused by the flooding—and by the rival authorities. According to AP News, “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.”

Reports show that funds were designated in 2012 to shore up the dams that broke in the storm, but the work did not take place. Libyan officials have opened an investigation into the issue and are warning they will prosecute those who were negligent in the maintenance of the dams.

Warnings Undelivered

Sources on the ground and public statements by Libyan authorities also reveal that local and state officials did not act on information that could have saved many lives. Both in the hours before the disaster and on the fateful night, the government chose to be reactive instead of proactive. Derna mayor Abdel Moneim al-Ghaithi encouraged residents to stay in their homes despite rising water levels and reports that the dams upstream were unsafe.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has also said that much of the loss of life in Derna could have been avoided if the Libyan meteorological service had been functioning as it should. “They could have issued warnings,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “The emergency management authorities would have been able to carry out evacuation of the people. And we could have avoided most of the human casualties.

A Divine Warning System

In these last days of Earth’s history, we face a coming catastrophe of epic proportions. The flooding in Derna is but one more example of what Jesus called the “beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8). All around us, we see an increase in natural disasters, crime, and strife of every kind. 

It will not be long until “every eye” will see Jesus coming in the clouds to take His children home. Yet this same event that speaks hope to believing hearts will also cause “all the tribes of the earth to mourn” (Revelation 1:7). For most of Earth’s residents, the Second Coming will be like an overwhelming flood that destroys everything in its path. There will be no joy for those who have rejected His mercy.

God has called us to be His warning system. Many people do not recognize the rising tide of sin and danger. Will we answer God’s call to join Him in warning wayward souls of their doom if they persist in rebellion against their Maker? It is not God’s desire that anyone should perish (2 Peter 3:9).

Let us make it our daily priority to lovingly invite those around us to seek safety in Christ so they can be safe from “the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). 

Not sure how to share your faith in a winning manner? Watch “Developing a Winning Attitude” to learn more about how to tell people about Jesus in a way that draws them to Him instead of repelling them.

Listen to Unprepared: Thousands Perish in Libya Overnight below
Shenalyn Page
Shenalyn Page is a homeschool mom and a writer for Amazing Facts International. She loves telling stories of God’s leading in people’s lives.

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