Recent floods in Libya have uncovered long-buried archaeological structures in an ancient Greek settlement outside the devastated city of Derna. The magnitude of the catastrophe, however, is impeding preservation efforts.
Local authorities discovered the structure while surveying the damage to Cyrene, a Greek city founded in 631 BCE. Cyrene thrived in the fourth century BCE as a center for agricultural and commercial activity, and holds several ancient landmarks such as a temples dedicated to Zeus and Apollo, respectively.
But Cyrene is now in dire need of aid after an aging dam burst earlier this month near Derna, unleashing a torrent of water across eastern Libya. Per the New York Times, more than 4,000 people have been reported dead while 8,000 others are missing.
The floods near Derna started after the country was hit on September 10 by Storm Daniel, a devastating storm system that also wreaked havoc on Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria. The storm caused strong winds, flash floods, and set a new rainfall record for Libya, according to the World Meterological Organization.
While damage was extensive in all the affected countries, in Libya, the storm came into contact with two aging dams, built in the 1970s from clay, rocks, and earth. While there have long been warnings about the condition of the dams, dating back to the late ’90s, corruption under the government of Colonel Muammar Al Qaddafi and then political instability since he was toppled in 2011 have prevented the needed maintainence.
“Those dams have had cracks and issues since the last regime, and despite all the budgets and all the demands and the calls, nothing was done,” Nermin Al-Sherif, head of the Libyan General Federation of Trade Unions, told Bloomberg. “Climate change is not something that we just heard about. It’s an existential threat and a lot of mistakes were committed here.”