Derna – a man-made or natural disaster?

For the people of north east Libya and particularly the town of Derna, discussions over whether their devastation was caused by climate change are of little interest, they are burying their dead.

But the debate is live and as people in more affluent and less afflicted regions are able to manage climate to a degree that those in north Africa are not, the conversation is important.

This video from the FT shows how Storm Daniel became an intense cyclone known as a ‘medicane’ lading to more than 400mm of rain falling in 24 hours.


Its conclusion is that this was a “perfect” storm. The storm hit a populated area with inadequate infrastructure.

The FT spoke to academics about whether this was a natural or human-induced disaster

Some academics said that it was too soon to tie the event conclusively to climate change, although rising temperatures raise the likelihood of extreme weather events. “We should expect the occurrence of extreme events unprecedented in the observational record,” said the University of Bristol’s Lizzie Kendon.

“Storm Daniel is illustrative of the type of devastating flooding event we may expect increasingly in the future, but such events can occur just due to the natural variability of the climate, as they did in the past.”

It is easy (perhaps too easy) to suppose that such disasters are “natural”. That can lead us to believe we are powerless to prevent them.

But the human factors in this disaster are clear.

Millions of people are currently in Libya, fleeing from other parts of Africa to the affluent north.

Libya is a nation impoverished by war and by a lack of good government.

The human built infrastructure of the country was insufficiently robust to stand the test of the medicane “storm Daniel. What was designed to protect, ended destroying.

The scale of this catastrophy is huge. It is a Mediterranean catastrophy, it happened on our doorstep. I am concerned about my own divided feelings about what has happened and about our responsibility towards Libya.

I have no immediate answer but prayer.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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1 Response to Derna – a man-made or natural disaster?

  1. Tim Simpson says:

    Hello Henry,
    You possibly know the area better than I do. However those who sail the Mediterranean assure me that it is one of the roughest seas there is. In August 1985 I went for a yachting ‘holiday’. We set sail from France (Port Carmargue) to Spain then to Minorca and then back to Port Carmague. In fourteen days we had only about four days when the seas weren’t rough and badly so. Why? The Skipper said that the whole area was one of meteorological turmoil. The Mistral wind blows down from France and meets the Sirocco wind coming up from the Sahara. These then collide with the Levant wind arriving from Turkey. Additionally there are other winds from France & Italy i.e. Marin & Tramontana. Added to the exceptional heat last week, there was a terrible earthquake in Morocco; what did the pressures from that do to the weather?
    I understand that the residents of Derna do not hold the weather altogether responsible, they hold their ineffective government as such for not maintaining the reservoirs correctly.
    Kind regards,
    Tim Simpson

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