Human Rights Watch called on Wednesday for an independent inquiry to review failings in Libyan authorities’ management of catastrophic flooding in eastern Libya in September 2023, saying the floods caused widespread destruction, with whole neighborhoods flushed away and thousands of people killed.

The associate Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, Hanan Salah,  said there is a good reason to believe that the storm would have been far less deadly had the authorities responded to the danger signs by evacuating people living in the flood zone.

"An independent inquiry is needed to establish what caused the massive loss of life and to pave the way for accountability.” Salah added.

Libyan organizations have called for an independent international investigation, questioning the apparent failure of authorities to provide adequate maintenance of aging infrastructure, including the two dams that collapsed, despite longstanding concerns about their condition. With the conclusion of the mandate of the United Nations Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya in March, no international investigative mechanism is functioning for Libya.

Human Rights Watch said that given the prevailing impunity for past and ongoing abuses in the country and Libyan authorities’ inability or unwillingness to hold those responsible to account, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN experts should initiate an investigation into the human rights violations and abuses involved in the crisis. 

Derna was hit by floods ensuing from Storm Daniel on September 10/11. The flooding killed at least 4,352 people and displaced more than 43,000, while another 8,000 remain missing, according to the United Nations.