Ancient History

Libya floods reveal forgotten structures in ancient Greek city near Derna

Devastating floods in Libya have exposed previously hidden archaeological structures in an ancient Greek city near Derna, prompting calls for preservation and restoration efforts.

The recent catastrophic floods that wreaked havoc across Libya have unexpectedly unveiled previously unknown structures at an ancient Greek city near Derna, posing a unique challenge for archaeologists and local authorities.

Libyan authorities, who arrived to assess the damage and salvage any historical remnants in the ancient city of Cyrene, stumbled upon structures that had lain hidden for centuries beneath layers of earth and debris.

Dr. Ahmed Issa from the Department of Archeology at Omar Al-Mukhtar University said that a national committee consisting of experts should be formed to classify the new archaeological monuments and develop a plan to restore the area.

Credit: AP Photo

A structure previously covered by mud and rubble revealed after floods

Cyrene, founded in 631 BC by Greek settlers, stands as a testament to the rich history of the region.

Flourishing during the fourth century BC, Cyrene became a hub of agricultural and commercial activity, and several Greek baths, the Temple of Zeus and the Temple of Apollo are among its notable landmarks.

The catastrophic floods that swept through Libya have had dire consequences, leading to the loss of thousands of lives, the destruction of residential buildings, and the obliteration of critical infrastructure such as roads and bridges, particularly in the city of Derna.

The toll continues to rise, with more than 11,000 reported fatalities and over 10,000 people still missing more than a week after the calamity, according to both the Libyan Red Crescent and the United Nations.

Specialist divers are still finding the bodies of people washed out to sea from Derna trapped beneath the water.

A week after a tsunami-sized flash flood devastated the Libyan coastal city of Derna, sweeping thousands to their deaths, the international aid effort to help the grieving survivors slowly gathered pace Sunday.

Search-and-rescue teams wearing face masks and protective suits kept up the grim search for bodies or any survivors in the mud-caked wasteland of smashed buildings, crushed cars and uprooted trees.

Traumatised residents, 30,000 of whom are now homeless in Derna alone, badly need clean water, food, shelter and basic supplies amid a growing risk of cholera, diarrhoea, dehydration and malnutrition, UN agencies warn.

“In this city, every single family has been affected,” said one resident, Mohammad al-Dawali.

Another, Mohamed al-Zawi, 25, recounted how he saw “a large mountain of water bringing with it cars, people, belongings… and pouring everything out into the sea”.

Amid the chaos, the true death toll remained unknown, with untold numbers swept into the sea.

The health minister of the eastern administration, Othman Abdeljalil, has said 3,283 people were confirmed dead in Derna after another 31 bodies were recovered on Sunday.

Libyan officials and humanitarian organisations have warned, however, that the final toll could be much higher with thousands still missing.

UN Libya envoy Abdoulaye Bathily visited Derna on Saturday, and posted on X, formerly Twitter, that the devastation was “truly heart-wrenching. I saw firsthand the magnitude of the disaster. This crisis is beyond Libya’s capacity to manage, it goes beyond politics and borders.”

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