Hundreds of people demonstrated in Derna, eastern Libya, expressing anger at authorities and demanding accountability a week after a flood killed thousands and destroyed entire neighborhoods.
On Monday, protesters targeted officials including the head of Libya’s eastern-based parliament, Aguila Saleh, during a demonstration outside the city’s Al Sahaba mosque. Some sat on its roof in front of its golden dome, a symbol of Derna.
“Aguila, we don’t want you!” All Libyans are brothers! » chanted the demonstrators, calling for national unity in a country politically fractured by more than a decade of conflict and chaos.
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 the Reuters news agency.
Hichem Abu Chkiouat, a minister in Libya’s eastern government, said Ghaithi had been suspended from his post.
Libya has two rival administrations, one internationally recognized, based in Tripoli, the capital, in the west of the country, and the other, self-proclaimed, based in Benghazi, in the east of the country, supported by the renegade general Khalifa Haftar.
Monday’s protest marks the first major demonstration since the floods, which swept through Derna when two dams in the hills outside the town burst during a powerful storm, unleashing a devastating torrent.
Said Mansour, a student participating in the protest, said he wanted an urgent investigation into the dam collapse, which “caused us to lose thousands of beloved people.”
Taha Miftah, 39, said the protest was a message that “governments have failed to manage the crisis”, stressing that Parliament was particularly responsible.
He called for an international investigation into the disaster and “reconstruction under international supervision”.
The full extent of the death toll is not yet known, and thousands of people are still missing. Authorities have given widely varying casualty counts. The World Health Organization has confirmed 3,922 deaths.
Saleh last week sought to deflect blame from authorities, calling the flood 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 highlighting the city’s vulnerability to flooding and the urgent need to maintain the dams that protected it.