Experts warned about the structural integrity of the Derna dams for almost 40 years, a Libyan state prosecutor said, as the search continues for bodies after last week’s devastating floods.
Concerns were first raised in 1986 after the dams – built by a Yugoslavian construction company in the 1970s – suffered major damage after a severe storm.
A study commissioned by the Libyan government a decade later revealed their structures contained cracks and fissures, according to the country’s general prosecutor, Al-Sediq Al-Sour.
In 2007, the Turkish firm Arsel Construction Company was contracted to maintain the two dams and to build a third.
The firm’s website claims the works were completed in November 2012 but recent satellite photos show no third dam was built. Arsel did not respond to requests for comment.
Many foreign companies fled Libya after the NATO-backed uprising and civil war in 2011 in which long-serving ruler Muammar Gaddafi was toppled.
Some time later, around £1.6m was set aside for the dams but a 2021 report by a state-run audit agency found they were not maintained.
Mr Al-Sour previously said prosecutors would investigate the collapse of the dams and the allocation of funds.
The floods killed at least 11,000 people, with more than 10,000 still missing. Much of Derna has been destroyed.
The health minister from Libya’s eastern government, Othman Abduljaleel, said on Sunday that 3,283 bodies had been buried – many in mass graves outside Derna, while others were transferred to nearby towns and cities.
Rescue efforts have been hampered by poor coordination, difficulty getting aid to the hardest-hit areas, and the destruction of Derna’s infrastructure, including several bridges.
It also emerged that ahead of Storm Daniel, rival administrations ruling Libya – one in the west backed by several armed groups and militias, and the second in the east allied with the self-styled Libyan National Army – gave conflicting warning messages.
The municipality of Derna published statements on its website urging residents to evacuate the coastal areas. But many residents said they received text messages on their phones urging them not to leave their homes.
Activists are calling for an international probe, fearing that a local investigation would be fruitless in such a divided country.
Libya has suffered from weak public institutions, internal conflict and deep instability, which allowed corruption to become rife with few to no checks on public sector abuse, according to Transparency International.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya said it was concerned water contamination and the lack of sanitation after the dams collapsed would result in “a second devastating crisis”.
Haider al-Saeih, head of Libya’s Centre for Combating Diseases, said in televised comments on Saturday that at least 150 people suffered diarrhoea after drinking contaminated water in Derna.
Florida: Woman whose remains were found in alligator’s mouth identified by police
Police have identified a woman whose remains were found in the mouth of a 13ft alligator in Florida.
The body of 41-year-old Sabrina Peckham was pulled from a canal in Largo, about 20 miles west of Tampa, after a witness spotted her in the alligator’s mouth, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said.
The animal was “humanely killed”, the sheriff’s office said, and the coroner’s office will perform a post-mortem examination to determine the official cause of death, but it is suspected Ms Peckham was killed by the alligator.
Ms Peckham’s daughter said her mother was homeless and lived near the water, and countered claims her mother had been taunting the animal.
Breauna Dorris wrote on Facebook: “Some details I would like to share is that my mother did not ‘taunt’ the alligator as some are saying in the news outlets comments.
“My mother was a part of the homeless population that lived in the nearby wooded area.
“It is believed that she may have been walking to or from her campsite near the creek in the dark and the alligator attacked from the water.”
She added: “No matter how you put it, no one deserves to die like this.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up for Ms Peckham to raise money for funeral costs, which has raised nearly $6,000 so far.
Witness ‘threw a rock at the alligator’
The alligator was spotted by Jamarcus Bullard, who saw the reptile and a body in the water on Friday afternoon.
“I threw a rock at the gator just to see if it was really a gator,” he told a TV affiliate of NBC News, Sky News’ US partner network.
“It pulled the body, like it was holding on to the lower part of the torso, and pulled it under the water.”
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Mr Bullard said he started recording on his phone and contacted the authorities.
The discovery has left some locals nervous, with Jennifer Dean telling TV station WFLA that her children frequently walk by the canal.
Sicilian mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro has died
Sicilian mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro, who was arrested in January after spending 30 years on the run, has died, according to Italian media reports.
The 61-year-old was suffering from cancer at the time of his arrest.
As his condition worsened in recent weeks he was transferred to a hospital from the maximum-security prison in central Italy where he was initially held.
He was convicted of numerous crimes, including for his role in planning the 1992 murders of anti-mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino – crimes that shocked Italy and sparked a crackdown on the Sicilian mob.
He was also held responsible for bombings in Rome, Florence and Milan in 1993 that killed 10 people, as well as helping organise the kidnapping of Giuseppe Di Matteo, 12, to try to dissuade the boy’s father from giving evidence against the mafia.
The boy was held for two years, then murdered.
Dubbed by the Italian press as “the last Godfather”, Messina Denaro is not believed to have given any information to the police after he was seized outside a private health clinic in the Sicilian capital, Palermo, on 16 January.
According to medical records leaked to the Italian media, he underwent surgery for colon cancer in 2020 and 2022 under a false name.
A doctor at the Palermo clinic told La Repubblica newspaper that Messina Denaro’s health had worsened significantly in the months leading up to his capture.
The sleepy Russian village where a pardoned ex-convict back from Ukraine carried out butchery
The village of Derevyannoe in Karelia, northwest Russia, has a well-kept feel to it. Apple trees heavy with fruit and tidy vegetable gardens, boats on trailers ready for sailing in the nearby lake and wood stacked up high for winter.
Up above you can just about make out the sound of woodpeckers tapping away in the pine forest canopy as dogs bark fiercely behind corrugated iron. It does not look like a place for mass murder, but where does.
Irina Zhamoidina stands in front of the charred remains of her brother, Artyom Tereschenko’s home. He and her 71-year-old father, Vladimir, were murdered here on the night of 1 August when two men, both of them ex-convicts, one fresh back from the frontline, broke in and stabbed father and son to death before setting the property on fire.
Mr Taroschenko’s children, aged nine and 12, managed to escape through a window and raise the alarm.
“My dad definitely did not deserve such a death,” Ms Zhamoidina says quietly. “We are from a good family. This is not how he should have died.”
The two men then continued down the road to another house a few hundred metres away and killed all four who lived there, three men and a woman, before setting their house on fire too. A drunken binge with a dose of drugs mixed in, Ms Zhamoidina thinks – a ‘zapoi’, as they’re known in Russia – turned murderous one sleepy summer night.
One of the men, Maxim Bochkarev, was known locally as a troublemaker. He had served time at a prison colony in St Petersburg for theft, carjacking, rape and sexual assault which is where he met his partner in crime, Igor Sofonov.
Sofonov, 37, had three more years to go for theft, robbery and attempted murder but was recruited straight from jail by Russia’s Ministry of Defence and sent to Ukraine, a practice started by the late Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin and adopted enthusiastically by the Russian military.
“I believe that anyone who was in prison, even if he went to war, then he should be sent back when he was done for such serious crimes,” Ms Zhamoidina says. “They should not live among us because cases like this do happen.”
She is right. The catalogue of violent crimes committed by pardoned ex-offenders is picking up as they trickle back home.
In June, Prigozhin said 32,000 recruited by Wagner were heading back to Russia, their records wiped clean.
Already in the southern city of Krasnodar, a Wagner ex-convict is on trial for murdering two people on their way home from work, a charge he denies. There have been cases of murder, sexual assault, child molestation from convicted sexual offenders.
In Novy Burets, about 500 miles east of Moscow, a Wagner ex-convict murdered an elderly lady, again on a drunken binge, even after locals repeatedly expressed their alarm to authorities that he was wandering their streets.
Three years ago we travelled to the Siberian city of Kemerovo to cover a case of domestic violence which had culminated in the brutal murder of 23-year-old Vera Pekhteleva. Her story had shocked the country after the audio recordings of her screams, as neighbours made repeated, desperate calls to police, went viral. In court, her uncle had sat just metres away from the killer, Vladislav Kanyus, as he was sentenced to 17 years in jail. Now from social media photos, he knows that Kanyus is a free man, recruited by the Ministry of Defence and serving somewhere in Ukraine.
“He murdered her with extreme cruelty,” Mr Pekhtelev said. “He was tormenting Vera for three hours, and now he will have been trained to fight. I just can’t imagine what will happen if he comes back.”
Changes to Russian legislation in June propose allowing suspected or convicted criminals to fight but not once a verdict takes effect. The reality of Russia’s prisoner recruitment though seems a lot murkier. According to the UK’s Ministry of Defence, it is part of a “broader, intense drive by the Russian military to bolster its numbers, while attempting to avoid implementing new mandatory mobilisation, which would be very unpopular”.
It is a policy which will see hardened criminals, traumatised by war, returning in their thousands with precious little in the way of psychological support or rehabilitation to speak of. Just as with domestic violence in Russia, authorities do not engage sufficiently with these kind of social issues back home, and especially not when there is a war on. But this is the stuff which tears at the social fabric of towns and villages across the country. This is one more of the many unintended consequences of war. Beyond the the zinc coffins and the escalating drone onslaught, this is how war comes home.
Alexandra Sofonova, Igor’s sister, believes the state should give psychological support to men like her brother, but she is sure that it won’t. “He served his duty, he was wounded – he’s a man and they’re proud of things like this. And then he came back and turned out to be unnecessary, he couldn’t even get a passport, he goes to glue wallpaper. Maybe something clicked in his head”, she says.
On the back of a supermarket wall a few feet from where we sit there is a piece of graffiti scrawled in large black letters. “Putin, no to war,” it says. I ask Alexandra what she thinks about it.
“I don’t know what kind of special operation this is,” she says. “Many of my friends died and are returning in zinc coffins. But they are dying for nothing. What are we fighting to win?”
The other sister in this story, Irina Zhamoidina, whose men were murdered back home, says it is her faith in God which gets her through each painful day.
“I’m afraid for the whole country. No one has the right to kill another, to take a life. They were not given this right”, she says. “We must stop this somehow, so that these kind of people are not among normal society.”
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