At least 5,200 people have died and thousands more are missing.
The initial floods in northeastern Libya — after torrential rain this past weekend — were bad enough. But the worst of the damage was not a result of those floods. It has instead come from the subsequent bursting of two dams near the coastal city of Derna.
Credit…By The New York Times
The waters that those dams had been holding back washed entire neighborhoods into the sea, officials said. Tall buildings fell into the mud, trapping residents under rubble. At least 5,200 people have died and thousands more are missing.
“The situation is catastrophic,” the Derna City Council said in a Facebook post. “Derna is pleading for help.”
The chain of events — first a major storm, followed by a collapse of infrastructure that made the situation far worse — reminded experts of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans almost 20 years ago.
Today’s newsletter gives you the latest news from Libya, with help from our colleagues Vivian Nereim, a Times correspondent, and Mohammed Abdusamee, who is in Tripoli.
The rescue effort
Medical teams have flown to Libya to help search for survivors and treat the injured. But rescue efforts have been slow because the flooding cut off roads into Derna.
Workers from Turkey and the United Arab Emirates arrived yesterday in Benghazi, a city more than 180 miles away. The Libyan government in Tripoli also has sent supplies, including body bags and medical equipment, to Benghazi. But it is not clear if supplies have reached the most affected areas.
The Derna City Council called for a safe shipping route to the city and for international intervention.
President Biden said the U.S. would send emergency funds to relief organizations and that it would coordinate with the U.N. and Libyan authorities. Emmanuel Macron, France’s leader, also announced financial and other aid for organizations working in Libya.
Bodies in Derna.Credit…Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters
Scientists say that climate change may have increased the severity of the storm that caused the flooding, a Mediterranean cyclone named Daniel. Though climate change is likely making Mediterranean cyclones less common, it is intensifying those that do form.
Making matters worse, Libyans are especially vulnerable. “Libya is ill-prepared to handle the effects of climate change and extreme weather,” said Malak Altaeb, an environmental expert.
Most Libyans live in coastal areas at risk of flooding as sea levels rise. Towns along dry riverbeds can also flood rapidly when heavy rain falls and the parched earth struggles to absorb it.
“This is going to happen more and more as the climate warms,” said Matthew Brubacher, an expert on Libyan climate change. “Everything is falling apart.”
Since Muammar el-Qaddafi’s government fell in 2011, Libya has lacked a strong central government. Instead, two rival factions have struggled for control: an internationally recognized government based in Tripoli, in the west, and another group in the east whose domain includes the flooded area.
As Daniel approached, the authorities in eastern Libya — who have limited resources — seemed to have no plan to monitor the dams and evacuate residents, experts said. “For the past 10 years there hasn’t really been much investment in the country’s infrastructure,” said Claudia Gazzini of the International Crisis Group.
More flooding still seems possible. Yesterday, the mayor of Tocra, 120 miles from Derna, warned on a local television channel that another dam was at risk of collapse.
A flash-flood damaged area in Derna. Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Floodwaters swept through other eastern settlements, displacing at least 20,000 people.
Libyans have posted in Facebook groups, begging for information about their missing loved ones. Read more about the crisis.
THE LATEST NEWS
Biden Impeachment Inquiry
Kevin McCarthy, the House speaker, opened an impeachment inquiry into Biden. Republicans have so far failed to find evidence of wrongdoing.
McCarthy is trying to appease far-right Republicans, who have threatened to oust him as speaker over government spending.
He accused Biden of lying about his son Hunter’s business dealings. There’s little to back up the allegations.
The speaker announced the inquiry unilaterally, without a House vote. Some Republicans who represent districts that Biden won have misgivings.
Donald Trump has been privately encouraging Republicans to impeach Biden.
War in Ukraine
Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un in a photo released by Russian state media.Credit…Sputnik, via Reuters
Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un met in eastern Russia for a summit in which they were expected to discuss arming Russian troops.
Russia has overcome Western sanctions to expand its missile production.
King Mohammed VI, Morocco’s leader, has kept a low profile after the earthquake. Some said that slowed rescue efforts.
Though citizens are frustrated with the earthquake response, criticism of the king can have serious consequences.
Many Moroccans are eager for visitors to keep coming to support the economy and fund relief.
Poverty spiked in the U.S. last year, more than doubling among children, as prices rose and federal aid programs expired.
In the opening of a major antitrust trial, the government argued Google eliminated competitors by paying to be the default search engine on phones.
Eight more companies that work on artificial intelligence agreed to follow the White House’s voluntary safeguards for the technology.
Apple’s newest iPhone will use USB-C ports, the same charger as many MacBooks.
Bernard Looney resigned as BP’s chief executive after failing to disclose past relationships with colleagues.
The C.D.C. recommended that all Americans 6 months and older get at least one dose of the latest Covid vaccines. The shots will be available within days. (Here’s an Opinion article by the C.D.C. director.)
Other Big Stories
A fire broke out in a nine-story apartment block in Hanoi, killing more than 30.
Five former Memphis police officers accused of brutally beating Tyre Nichols were indicted on federal charges over his death.
New York City’s pension funds sued Fox, saying that by broadcasting falsehoods about the 2020 election and risking lawsuits, it neglected its duty to shareholders.
As much as $135 billion in unemployment benefits paid during the pandemic could have been claimed illegally.
The Supreme Court can earn back some legitimacy by forcing Alabama to comply with the Voting Rights Act in its congressional maps, Kate Shaw writes.
Flowing freely: A river of wine filled streets in Portugal after two distillery tanks collapsed.
Van Gogh: A painting stolen from a Dutch museum in 2020 was returned in an Ikea bag.
Dublin marathon: The medals commemorated Yeats — and misquoted him.
Titan: The presence of an experienced deep sea explorer on the doomed submersible is a riddle that haunts the disaster.
Lives Lived: As New York City’s police commissioner in the 1990s, Howard Safir expanded antidrug efforts and improved officer training. But New Yorkers criticized his response to fatal police shootings of Black men. He died at 81.
Aaron Rodgers: The Jets’ quarterback is out for the season with a torn Achilles’ tendon. New York fans’ hopes that he would lead the team to a Super Bowl were short lived.
Substitution: Zach Wilson is now the Jets’ starting quarterback.
New boss: David Stearns, the former Brewers president and general manager, will take over the baseball operations for the New York Mets.
Tennis: Simona Halep received a four-year suspension for a doping violation after she tested positive for a banned substance at last year’s U.S. Open.
ARTS AND IDEAS
The Tank MuseumCredit…Sam Bush for The New York Times
Internet fame: The first museum to reach 100 million views on YouTube was not the Louvre or the Smithsonian. It was the Tank Museum. Its videos, which include detailed discussions on tank technology and history, have made this museum in the English countryside an unlikely global sensation.
More on culture
The National Book Awards dropped Drew Barrymore as its host after she resumed her daytime talk show despite the strike by television writers.
Locals in Brentwood, Calif., are fighting to stop the demolition of the house where Marilyn Monroe died.
Venice plans to charge a five-euro fee to tourists coming on a day trip.
THE MORNING RECOMMENDS …
Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times.