As the people of North Africa are hit by a second devastating disaster in as many weeks, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has issued a stark warning that the international community must urgently ramp up financing for resilient infrastructure and systems, fit for new climate realities.
The thoughts of transport workers around the world are with the people of Libya after record rainfall swept across the country. The death toll in the Port of Derna has reached over 11,000 and 20,000 are reported missing after two dams collapsed and swept through the city. Transport workers are among those who died.
“It’s impossible to comprehend the scale of destruction and the deep sorrow that will follow such a devastating loss of life,” said Paddy Crumlin, the ITF’s President. “On behalf of transport workers everywhere, we pledge our support for the people of Libya and will, of course, do our utmost to help our affiliates in the response. The Libyan people are very much in the thoughts as we watch in the aftermath of this devastating, preventable crisis.”
Infrastructure must be made more resilient
Although it is still too early to draw definitive conclusions, it seems likely climate change was a factor in the scale of the catastrophe. Dams that had not been maintained collapsed in the face of heavy rains, leading to a deluge of water washing away entire neighbourhoods. Most casualties could have been avoided if authorities had issued appropriate warnings and undertaken evacuations, the UN's World Meteorological Organization has said.
“Only last year, at COP27 in Egypt, we highlighted the unequal regional impacts of climate change, and the need for global attention to the devastation being caused across Africa,” said Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the ITF. “We warned then, and I reiterate that warning now, that the failure to invest in infrastructure fit for new climate realities is costing lives. There’s been enough talk. We need real action, stepping up climate financing and getting it where it needs to go.”
“We extend the thoughts and solidarity of the world’s transport workers and our affiliated unions globally to the Libyan people. The scale of this catastrophe – with a death toll over 11,000, thousands more missing and feared dead and perhaps one-third of Derna’s inhabitants left homeless – is truly hard to comprehend.”
Rescuers continue to hunt for survivors in Libya, and the country now faces a new threat, with the UN warning of disease from contaminated water.