Libya’s chief prosecutor said on 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 metes 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 Sepember11 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 neighbourhoods 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.