Floods in Libya
Severe flooding is caused by atmospheric conditions that lead to heavy rain or the rapid melting of snow and ice. Geography can also make an area more likely to flood. For example, areas near rivers and cities are often at risk for flash floods.
Maps: Where Floods Have Devastated Libya
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The layout of the city of Derna, on the northeastern coast of Libya, amplified the extreme damage wrought by flooding there over the weekend.
This time though, the amount of rain from Storm Daniel was extraordinary. And then, at around 2 a.m. on Monday, two dams collapsed.
The floods have killed thousands of people, and thousands more are missing
Most of Libya is desert, with limited surface water resources, and it relies almost entirely on groundwater, most of which is ‘fossil’ water – recharged thousands of years ago when the region’s climate was wetter. Most agriculture relies on groundwater for irrigation, largely from the Great Man Made River.
Libya has Africa’s largest proven oil reserves
It’s a particularly appealing oil region due to its low cost of oil (around $1 per barrel), low sulfur content and proximity to European markets. Around 85% of Libya’s oil is exported to countries across Europe.
Floods happen for many reasons. Heavy rains, large amounts of snow melt, ocean waves, and breaking levees and dams are common causes of flooding. A ton of water is not necessary to cause flood damage. Just a few inches may be enough to require extensive reconstruction of a building. On top of that, flood waters can be incredibly powerful, sweeping entire buildings off their foundations. In fact, deadly floods kill more people each year than tornadoes, hurricanes, or lightning strikes.
The 6 Deadliest Floods of All Time
Flood Location Estimated Death Toll
1 1931 China Floods China Up to 4 million
2 1887 Yellow River Flood China 900,000+
3 1938 Yellow River Flood China 800,000-900,000
4 1975 Banqiao Dam Failure China 85,000-240,000
5 1935 Yangtse Flood China 140,000+
6 1530 St. Felix’s Flood The Netherlands 100,000
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