UN warns of concerning situation at two more Libyan dams

Geneva, Sept 18, (dpa/GNA) – Following the devastating floods a week ago in Libya, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs(OCHA), on Sunday said it was concerned about two more dams, which were reportedly dealing with massive amounts of pressure.

The dams in question are the Jaza Dam between the partly destroyed city of Darna and Benghazi, and the Qattara Dam near Benghazi, the OCHA said.

However, there have been “contradictory reports” over the dams’ stability, the UN agency said. Both dams were in good condition and functioning, according to authorities. Pumps were being installed at the Jaza Dam to relieve pressure on it, the OCHA cited authorities as saying.

Derna was badly hit after the severe storm last weekend, mainly due to the breach of two dams. The storm killed thousands of people and thousands more are still missing. The authorities do not yet have exact figures. The city had about 100,000 inhabitants before the disaster.

Confusion over the death toll continued on Sunday, after the OCHA initially spoke of 11,300 dead and a further another 10,100 missing.

Additionally, an estimated 170 other people had been killed elsewhere in eastern Libya, according to the UN agency.

The OCHA attributed the figures to the Libyan Red Crescent. A spokesman for the aid group voiced astonishment at the numbers and rejected them.

“What are the sources of these numbers?” Tawfiq al-Shukri asked dpa.

“The official numbers are issued by the agency authorized by the Libyan authorities,” he said.

In a later version of its situation report, OCHA dropped those figures, instead citing the World Health Organization (WHO) figure of 3,958 people dead, and more than 9,000 still missing.

Late on Sunday, Othman Abdel Jalil, the health minister in the one of Libya’s rival governments, told a press conference that the number of people who have been buried so far was 3,283.

The Libyan official reiterated his call to the media to follow the official numbers, which are given daily by the Health Ministry.

“We regret that we saw a lot of statements being made by local officials, and some came from international sides during which they gave numbers which can cause panic among the people,” the official said.

He added that he regretted to see that UN on its site, put the number of dead in eastern Libya at 11,300.

“I don’t know where they got this from,” he said. “When I got in touch with, them they mentioned it was from the Red Crescent, but when I talked to the Red Crescent they said that did not talk to them.”

The minister, said the UN based their report on information coming from a man, who claimed to be speaking on behalf of the Red Crescent and that, he lived outside Libya.

Conflicting accounts have emerged from Libya, which is divided between warring administrations in east and west.

Earlier in the week, the mayor of Derna had said it was possible up to 20,000 people had died there.

The WHO said nearly 4,000 people who were killed in the floods had been identified. A group of Libyan data analysts and researchers, also said there had been around 4,000 confirmed deaths in a count on Saturday.

A powerful storm dubbed Daniel, hit Libya on September 10, after earlier lashing Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey.

Two dams broke in the mountains above the port of Derna, washing away large areas of the city of around 100,000 people.

Al-Shukri of the Libyan Red Crescent, said on Sunday that the search and rescue situation in Derna was “better” now with the engagement of several Libyan and foreign teams.

While he did say that survivors had been hauled up from under the rubble through Saturday, he declined to give specific figures.
Concerns are growing about water safety in Derna.

Detected cases of diarrhoea totalled 150 in the city on Saturday, due to contaminated drinking water.

The director of Libya’s National Centre for Disease Control, Haider al-Sayeh, said Sunday that field teams from the centre managed to reduce the cases, and advised locals to avoid well water and use bottled water.

The head of the internationally recognized Tripoli-based government, Abdel-Hamid Dbeibeh, ordered the provision of drinking water to flood-affected areas, his administration said Sunday. His government does not have actual control over the eastern part of Libya.

Abdel Jalil said Sunday that a vaccination campaign has been launched, to protect all those living in Derna and working in it, including military, medical staff and journalists.

The minister also announced that a “horrific traffic accident” took place on Sunday, which led to the death of four Greek rescue workers, who were on their way to Derna.

Abdel Jalil said 15 others were wounded in the accident, of which seven were in critical condition, and eight, stable.

He said the Greek team had consisted of 19 rescue members.
In total, the accident killed seven people, as the aid workers’ vehicle crashed into a car carrying a Libyan family, according to Jalil.

The Greek military initially confirmed three deaths late on Sunday night. Two other members of the rescue team were missing, it said in a statement on Facebook.

Three of the family of five died in the accident, while the other two were seriously injured.

Libya has been in turmoil since the overthrow of dictator Moamer Gaddafi in 2011. Countless militias are still fighting for power and influence in the oil-rich country. The conflict is further fuelled by foreign states.

All diplomatic efforts to settle the conflict peacefully have failed.