Man covered in a blanket standing in heavy rain in Storm Daniel in Libya
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A man stands under heavy rain due to the Storm Daniel, which affected the city of Derna in Libya, in Deir Al Balah, Gaza on September 10, 2023. (Photo by Ashraf Amra/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

What is happening in Libya?

On Sunday 10th September a severe storm made landfall on the north-east coast of Libya. Storm Daniel brought over 400mm of rain in 24 hours, in a region that typically only receives 1.5mm rain in the whole of September. The rainfall caused two dams to burst on the normally dry Wadi Derna riverbed. This unleashed a torrent of water through the city of Derna, washing away entire neighbourhoods.

Thousands of people have died in the flooding, and thousands more are still missing. The IFRC estimates over 40,000 people have been displaced across north-east Libya.

People whose homes have been lost or damaged were sheltering together in school buildings. Many are now moving to stay with host families or to other communal accommodation.

The wet season has now arrived in Libya, and winter is approaching. Temperatures in Derna can drop to as low as 1°C in the winter, posing an extra risk to life for people without adequate shelter.

Three children in winter clothing standing outside a tent against the landscape in Syria

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Map of north Libya showing location of flooding in 2023, particularly the city of Derna

Where is Libya?

Libya is in north Africa.

The north coast borders the Mediterranean Sea. To the east of Libya lies Egypt and Sudan. To the south are Chad and Niger, and to the west Algeria and Tunisia.

Much of Libya is covered by desert. Towns and cities on the north coast experience a more Mediterranean like climate.

Severe flooding like that brought about by Storm Daniel is very rare in Libya. However scientists have said that climate change has made such severe storms far more likely.

White tents next to flood water in Pakistan
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ShelterBox tents being used after floods in Pakistan in 2022

Has ShelterBox responded in Libya before?

ShelterBox has previously responded in Libya. In 2011 we partnered with the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED) and the Libyan Red Crescent Society to deliver aid to people affected by civil unrest.

We will once again be working with partners for our current response in the country.

ShelterBox has significant experience responding to severe flooding around the world, most recently in Pakistan (2022), India (2020), Paraguay (2019), and Kenya (2018).

Woman holding a blanket to her face
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Our response in Libya will be focused around items to help people keep warm, such as thermal blankets.

How is ShelterBox helping?

ShelterBox is working with our partner ACTED in Libya. Together, we’re supporting people in Derna – the area worst affected by the flooding. We’re supporting communities who have lost their homes and belongings to flood water, with a focus on items that will help keep people warm.

As access to Libya for foreign nationals is challenging, we have been planning together with ACTED, and are providing them with a grant for this response. With the grant, ACTED, which was already working in Derna before these floods, has sourced aid items locally and distributed them to people who need it most.

We provided winter clothing, thermal blankets, and heaters so people can protect themselves and their families from the cold. Kitchen sets, with cooking pots and cutlery, will mean people can heat water, and cook food to keep warm. We also provided basic but essential items like toothbrushes, sanitary pads, and soap. Aid distributions are now complete.

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Flooding in Libya – key facts

Where has been affected by flooding in Libya?

The north-east coast of Libya was affected by extremely heavy rainfall. This brought flash flooding in several cities and communities in this area of the country.

The city of Derna has been particularly badly affected as the rainfall caused two dams to burst. As a result the city was engulfed in a torrent of water compared to a tsunami due to its suddenness and strength.

When did flooding affect Libya?

Storm Daniel reached Libya on Sunday 10th September 2023. The heavy rainfall caused two dams to burst in the city of Derna that night.

Due to the amount of damage to infrastructure, full details of the amount of devastation and loss of life are still emerging.

What caused the flooding in Libya?

The flooding was caused by Storm Daniel. This was a type of storm known as a medicane – a severe storm on the Mediterranean compared to a hurricane. Storm Daniel formed in Greece and caused record breaking rainfall there on 5th and 6th September. It then moved south towards Libya.

Storm Daniel caused over 400mm of rain to fall on north-east Libya in 24 hours. That’s over 200 times more rain than this area would expect to get in the entire month in September. The rain caused flash flooding and mudslides.

Who has been affected by the flooding in Libya?

Communities along the north-east coast of Libya have been affected by flooding and mudslides. The city of Derna has been particularly badly hit as the rainfall caused two dams in a normally dry riverbed through the city to burst.

This unleashed a torrent of water which engulfed swathes of the city. Onlookers described the water as being like a tsunami. Scientists have estimated that millions of tons of water would have been released. It swept away people, vehicles and buildings in its path.

The scale of the impact is still coming to light as a lot of infrastructure was also damaged in the flooding. Thousands of people are known to have been killed. Many more are still missing. There are concerns about contaminated water supplies due to bodies still in the water.

As well as the staggering loss of life, the IFRC also estimate that over 40,000 people have been displaced. As such they will lack basic necessities such as food, clean water, medicine, and shelter.

Has climate change contributed to the flooding in Libya?

Storm Daniel cannot be specifically linked to climate change. However many scientists believe that the climate crisis is making such severe storms more likely.

As such it is possible that we will see more devastating storms as our planet continues to warm up. You can learn more about the link between disasters and climate change here.

Is the flooding in Libya a natural disaster?

Extreme weather events such as Storm Daniel are a part of the world’s climate. However, it is the decisions that humans make that can decide whether such an event becomes a disaster.

In the case of Libya, some are pointing to the political turmoil in the country as a factor in the scale of the devastation from the floods. Since the fall of Col Gaddafi’s regime in 2011 the country has been split into two rival governments. Fighting has been taking place between militias. As a result the focus has not been on maintaining infrastructure.

The devastating flooding in Libya is another example of how disasters are not natural. Learn more here.

Where will my donation go?

When giving to ShelterBox you are contributing to a general donation fund.

Your support today will contribute to part of our General Fund. We believe that the best way for us to be impactful is by staying flexible, and it is essential that we have funds available to support those affected by disasters around the world.

Portrait of Pakistani man standing outside emergency tent
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When severe flooding caused devastation across the north and south of Pakistan, father of four, Abdul, lost his home and his livelihood. After receiving a ShelterBox tent, Abdul and his family told us they were joyful to have a roof over their heads.

Disasters don’t stop

Right now we’re working to support communities in Gaza, Malawi, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Somalia, Ethiopia, Chad, Libya and Mozambique.

Your support helps us go even further.