Horrific scenes unfolded in Darnah as torrential rain caused two dams on the outskirts of the Libyan city to burst. Tidal waves rushed through the streets, buildings were washed into the sea and entire families perished in an instant.
Storm Daniel, which formed in the eastern Mediterranean in early September, brought large amounts of rain to several countries, including Spain, Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey and Libya, over ten days. This led to huge flooding. Worst of all in Libya, where around 4 000 people have been confirmed dead and many are still missing.
Climate change made heavy rainfall in northeastern Libya up to 50 times more likely, with 50 percent more rain during the period, according to a quick analysis from the World Weather Attribution research network. But the event is still extremely rare and in the current climate can be expected once every 300–600 years.
Could have been alleviated
But the researchers also point out that many lives could probably have been saved if Libya had been better prepared. Long-term political conflict, housing built in risk areas and, not least, deficiencies in the maintenance of the dams that burst contributed to the size of the disaster.
"This disaster points to the need to maintain infrastructure for the climate of the future. Conflicts and climate interact and increase people's vulnerability. Improved early warning systems and climate adaptation can also help avoid disasters in the future, says Maja Vahlberg at the Red Cross Climate Center in The Hague.
Watch climate researcher Michael Tjernström explain how to know if an extreme weather event is linked to climate change or not.