DERNA, Libya — Hundreds of people protested in the eastern Libyan city of Derna on Wednesday, expressing anger at authorities and demanding accountability a week after a flood killed thousands of residents and destroyed entire neighborhoods.
Protesters targeted officials, including the head of the eastern-based Libyan parliament, Aguila Saleh, during the demonstration outside the Sahaba Mosque. Some sat on the roof in front of the golden dome, a symbol of Derna.
Later in the evening, angry protesters set fire to the house of the man who was mayor of Derna at the time of the flood, Abdulmenam al-Ghaithi, his office manager told Reuters.
Hichem Abu Chkiouat, a minister in the eastern Libyan government, said Ghaithi had been suspended from his post. Reuters could not immediately reach Ghaithi for comment.
The parallel government in eastern Libya said Prime Minister Usama Hamad dismissed all members of the Derna municipal council and referred them for investigation.
Monday’s protest marks the first major demonstration since the flood, which swept through Derna when two dams in the hills outside the city failed during a powerful storm, causing a devastating deluge.
‘Aguila, we don’t want you! All Libyans are brothers!” demonstrators chanted and called for national unity in a country politically fractured by more than a decade of conflict and chaos.
Mansour, a student who took part in the protest, said he wanted an urgent investigation into the collapse of the dams, which caused us to “lose thousands of our beloved people.”
Taha Miftah, 39, said the protest was a message that “the governments have failed to manage the crisis”, adding that parliament was mainly to blame.
He called for an international investigation into the disaster and “for reconstruction under international supervision.”
The full extent of the death toll has yet to be announced and thousands of people are still missing. Officials have given widely varying death toll figures. The World Health Organization has confirmed 3,922 deaths.
Saleh tried to deflect blame from authorities last week, describing the flood as an “unprecedented natural disaster” and saying people should not focus on what could or should have been done.
But commentators have drawn attention to advance warnings, including an academic paper published last year by a hydrologist that outlined the city’s vulnerability to flooding and the urgent need to maintain the dams that protected the city.
Derna is located in eastern Libya, a part of the country controlled by military commander Khalifa Haftar and overseen by a government established in parallel with the internationally recognized administration in Tripoli, in the west.
Libya is investigating the collapse of dams after a flood that killed more than 11,000 people
How chaos in Libya left its population exposed to deadly floods
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