IUCN statement on the recent natural disasters in Morocco and Libya
In the past week, two significant natural disasters have struck Morocco and Libya. As the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), our hearts go out to our colleagues, partners and all those affected by these tragedies.
On September 8th a devastating earthquake struck the regions of High Atlas and Marrakesh, in central Morocco. The strongest earthquake Morocco has seen in over a century, it has led to the loss of over 1,000 lives and the destruction of countless homes and buildings. With limited access to basic supplies, such as food, clean water and shelter, the region is in urgent need of assistance. This tragedy has been particularly devastating for those living in the more remote locations within the High Atlas region, who are struggling to establish contact with relief efforts (Global Diversity Foundation, 2023).
Only a few days later, on September 12th, disaster struck in Libya when Storm Daniel brought catastrophic flooding. The coastal city of Derna was particularly hard-hit, with a quarter of the city submerged due to two dams bursting following heavy rains. Reports suggest that over 5,000 people have tragically lost their lives. While aid agencies continue to provide relief efforts, the number of victims may rise as thousands remain unaccounted for (Uras and Ibrahim, 2023).
While the earthquake is a terrible occurrence, an unprecedented natural disaster such as the flooding can be linked to the climate crisis. In the case of Storm Daniel, which has since been dubbed as a ‘medicane’ for its hurricane-like characteristic, multiple experts have stated that the warmer waters and higher atmospheric temperature of the area are likely to have led to the acceleration and aggravation of the storm, leading to more extreme effects (O'Malley and Webber, 2023) (Euronews Green, 2023). Though ‘medicanes’ of this ferocity can form in the Mediterranean, they are rare occurrences and seldom grow at the speed that Storm Daniel did (Euronews Green, 2023).
While our words cannot undo the immense pain and loss faced by the affected communities, as the IUCN Mediterranean office, we stand by our commitment to work closely with Morocco and Libya, to help support not only the conservation of nature of these two countries, but the livelihoods of the Moroccan and Libyan people. We applaud the heroes offering relief and aid to these countries in need. Now more than ever, it is important for countries to support each other and cooperate transnationally to lessen the impacts of these, and any future, natural disasters.
- Euronews Green. (2023, 09 14). Climate change and crumbling infrastructure made Libya’s devastating floods worse, scientists say. Retrieved from Euronews.green: https://www.euronews.com/green/2023/09/13/climate-change-and-crumbling-infrastructure-made-libyas-devastating-floods-worse-scientist
- Euronews Green. (2023, 09 14). Libya, Greece, Brazil: Climate-driven storms cause catastrophic flooding around the world. Retrieved from Euronews.green: https://www.euronews.com/green/2023/09/13/libya-greece-brazil-climate-driven-storms-cause-catastrophic-flooding-around-the-world
- Global Diversity Foundation. (2023, 09 13). High Atlas earthquake relief fund. Retrieved from Global Diversity Foundation: https://global-diversity.org/high-atlas-earthquake-relief-fund/
- O'Malley, I. and Webber, T. (2023, 09 13). How Climate Change Likely Contributed to Libya's Devastating Flooding. Retrieved from Time: https://time.com/6313665/libya-storm-flooding-climate-change/
- Uras, U. and Ibrahim, A. (2023, 09 12). Libya floods updates: Thousands dead, missing in Derna after Storm Daniel. Retrieved from Aljazeera: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/liveblog/2023/9/12/libya-floods-live-news-thousands-dead-missing-in-derna-after-storm-daniel