How a Libyan family survived the deadly floods that swept away their wedding

Alaam Sadaawi and his family were looking forward to celebrating his wedding on Friday, September 15, 2023, in the town of Soussa, Libya. They had prepared everything for the big day, from the food and drinks to the decorations and music. But their joy turned into horror when a massive wall of water crashed into their house, destroying everything in its path.

The flood was caused by Storm Daniel, a rare and powerful weather phenomenon that brought heavy rains and strong winds to northeastern Libya. The storm also triggered the collapse of two dams that were supposed to protect the towns along the Wadi Derna river from flooding. The water level rose rapidly, sweeping away buildings, cars, bridges, and people.

How a Libyan family survived the deadly floods that swept away their wedding
How a Libyan family survived the deadly floods that swept away their wedding

Alaam’s father, Mayloud, 70, said he heard a loud noise before the water hit their house. He grabbed his wife and ran upstairs, where they joined their other children and guests. They tried to hold on to each other and to anything they could find, as the water smashed the windows and walls. They left behind muddy handprints on the white walls, a sign of their desperate struggle to survive.

A miracle amid the tragedy

The Sadaawi family was among the lucky ones who managed to escape the flood with their lives. They were rescued by neighbors and taken to a nearby hospital, where they received treatment for their injuries. Alaam, the groom, suffered a broken leg and a head wound. His bride was with her family in another town. They never had their wedding day.

Mayloud said he was grateful that his children were alive, but he was also devastated by the loss of his home and belongings. He had spent all his savings on the wedding, buying silver platters, new cups, and a generator. He also lost his livestock and crops, which were his main source of income. He said he did not know how he would rebuild his life after the disaster.

The Sadaawi family’s story is one of many that illustrate the human toll of the flood that hit Libya on September 10, 2023. According to official estimates, more than 11,000 people have died and 10,000 are still missing. The death toll is expected to rise as rescue workers continue to search for survivors and bodies. Many of those who died were Egyptians who worked in Libya as laborers or traders.

A disaster of ‘mythic proportions’

The flood has been described as the worst environmental disaster in Libya’s modern history. It has exposed the country’s vulnerability to climate change and its lack of preparedness for such extreme events. Libya is one of the driest countries in the world, with an average annual rainfall of less than 100 mm. However, climate models predict that the region will experience more frequent and intense storms in the future.

The flood has also highlighted the impact of years of war and chaos on Libya’s infrastructure and governance. The country has been divided between rival administrations and militias since the 2011 uprising that toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The eastern government, which controls most of the affected areas, has been struggling to provide basic services and security to its population. The dams that failed were poorly maintained and had no warning systems or evacuation plans.

The international community has responded with humanitarian aid and assistance to the flood victims. The United Nations has sent a disaster coordination team of 15 people to Libya, along with food, water, tents, blankets, and medical supplies. The Red Cross has deployed volunteers and staff to provide first aid, psychosocial support, and relief items. Several countries have also offered their help, including Egypt, Turkey, Russia, Italy, France, Germany, Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria.

However, many challenges remain in delivering aid and reaching those in need. The flood has damaged roads and bridges, making access difficult for relief workers. The security situation is also volatile and unpredictable in some areas where armed groups operate. The political divisions among Libyan factions have also hampered coordination and cooperation among local authorities.

A call for action and solidarity

The Libyan people have shown resilience and solidarity in the face of the flood. Many have volunteered to help with rescue efforts or donated money and goods to support their fellow citizens. Some have opened their homes or mosques to shelter those who lost theirs. Others have organized online campaigns or fundraisers to raise awareness and funds for the cause.

However, many Libyans have also expressed frustration and anger at their leaders for failing to protect them from the disaster or provide adequate assistance afterwards. They have called for accountability and justice for those responsible for the dam collapses or for neglecting their duties. They have also demanded more investment in infrastructure and public services to prevent such tragedies from happening again.

The flood has also sparked a renewed sense of urgency for peace and unity in Libya. Many Libyans have realized that they share a common fate and a common destiny, regardless of their political or regional affiliations. They have called for dialogue and reconciliation among the warring parties and for the holding of free and fair elections as soon as possible. They have also appealed for more support and solidarity from the international community to help them overcome the crisis and rebuild their country.

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