Expert warnings about Derna dams ignored for years, prosecutor says

Experts have warned about the structural integrity of the twin dams in Derna for years, a Libyan state prosecutor revealed.

Concerns have been raised since 1986 when the dams suffered major damage in the wake of a wild storm.

Libya’s general prosecutor al-Sediq al-Sour said that more than a decade later, a study was commissioned by the Libyan government that revealed cracks and fissures in the dam structures.

Libya Floods
Rescuers and relatives search for bodies of the flood victims in the city of Derna, Libya (Abdulaziz Almnsori/AP)

Turkish firm Arsel Construction Company was also contracted in 2007 to maintain the two dams and to build a third damn in between them.

The firm’s website claims the works were completed in November 2012 but, according to recent satellite photos, no third dam was built.

Arsel did not respond to an email seeking further comment on the two dams.

In 2012 and 2013, 2 million dollars was set aside to maintain the twin dams.

Libya Flooding
Rescuers have searched in streets, wrecked buildings and the sea (Yousef Murad/AP)

But, according to a report by a state-run audit agency in 2021, the two dams were never maintained.

The audit agency has since blamed the Ministry of Works and Natural Resources for failing to cancel the contract and give it to a company that would do the work.

Mr Al-Sediq al-Sour said in a press conference on Friday that prosecutors would investigate the collapse of the two dams and the allocation of maintenance funds.

Libya Flood
Before and after the Derna flood (Pool/AP)

He said: “I reassure citizens that whoever made mistakes or negligence, prosecutors will certainly take firm measures, file a criminal case against him and send him to trial.”

After decades of neglect and heavy rains caused by Storm Daniel, the two dams in Derna were overwhelmed on September 12.

A wall of water razed the city, killing at least 11,000 people and destroying entire neighbourhoods in the process.

The Libyan Red Crescent says more than 10,000 people are still missing.