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Flooding in Libya a ‘gray swan’ event, but dam infrastructure worldwide ‘not ready’ to meet the demands of a changing climate, expert says

A general view of the city of Derna is seen on Tuesday, Sept. 12., 2023. Mediterranean storm Daniel caused devastating floods in Libya that broke dams and swept away entire neighborhoods in multiple coastal towns, the destruction appeared greatest in Derna city.

Thousands of people have been killed and another 10,000 are missing — and presumed dead — in Libya after flooding from a devastating Mediterranean storm over the weekend swept away homes and inundated roadways, leading to a humanitarian crisis of “catastrophic” proportions. The coastal city of Derna suffered most of the catastrophic flooding from Storm Daniel after two catchment dams burst, unleashing floodwaters that swept away whole neighborhoods, imperiling thousands of residents in a region already steeped in years of conflict

The unprecedented disaster comes on the heels of another tragedy in the North African nation of Morocco, where an earthquake on Friday killed more than 2,900 people. Auroop Ganguly, Northeastern’s distinguished professor of civil and environmental engineering, described the floods in Libya as a “gray swan” event — that is, an event that is rare but predictable. Such events include COVID-19 pandemic, Hurricane Katrina and the 2008 financial collapse, for example — and are contrasted with “black swan” events, such as the Sept. 11 attacks. 

The gray swan is what experts describe as a “predictive surprise;” they wreak devastation on the affected communities, but point to longstanding deficiencies in “infrastructure readiness and resilience.” Often, the lessons from these events are not learned, Ganguly says.

Continue reading at Northeastern Global News.

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