In addition to declaring a three-day period of mourning for victims of the humanitarian disasters in Libya and Morocco, Egypt is working on different levels to help both countries deal with the disasters and to show its solidarity with them.
This week, the Egyptian Navy’s Mistral Carrier unloaded heavy equipment including excavators, cranes, and electric generators at Tobruk in northeastern Libya.
The Mistral, named the Gamal Abdel-Nasser, will also function as a field hospital.
Egypt declared that it will set up camps in the western region of Libya to accommodate the victims of last week’s devastating storm and flash floods that left thousands dead, displaced, or homeless.
Egypt has always been eager to help countries hit by natural disasters, said Ali Al-Hefni, a former deputy to Egypt’s Foreign Minister.
Egypt has acquired the needed experience to help countries hit by natural disasters over the years either by participating in the rescue efforts or by providing relief to the affected regions. This was manifested during the Covid-19 pandemic and through its efforts to aid Syria and Turkey when they were hit by a devastating earthquake earlier this year.
“Given the size of the disasters in Morocco and Libya, and the fact that they are both neighbouring countries, the need is even more pressing for Egypt to help to alleviate the suffering and help these countries recover from these devastating disasters,” Al-Hefni said.
Another official who preferred to speak anonymously said the fact that Egypt was sending aid this week was an indication of the importance Cairo gives to helping neighbouring countries, especially in the Middle East region, during disasters or political problems.
An Egyptian Navy supply ship carried hundreds of tons of relief aid materials for the people of Sudan on Monday. The supplies, which include food and medicines, will be distributed in the areas most severely affected by the ongoing conflict in the war-torn country.
In Libya, a military delegation led by Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces Osama Askar arrived this week to coordinate the provision of urgent logistical and humanitarian assistance to the country in the wake of the disaster.
Egypt also dispatched three military planes to Libya carrying humanitarian aid, including medications and medical supplies as well as tents, search-and-rescue teams, relief vehicles, and working groups from the Egyptian Red Crescent.
The Ministry of Religious Endowments has allocated LE30 million, the equivalent of a little under $1 million, to Libya and Morocco, as well as to Slovenia, which was hit by floods in early August.
Egyptian rescue teams are still working to help recover victims from the floods in Libya.
Al-Hefni noted that the case of Libya is different as in addition to the fact that both countries share long borders Egypt, the historical relations with Libya have meant that Cairo has been playing an important role to resolve the differences between the warring factions in the country.
He added that the size of the disaster and the number of victims had given greater depth to the Egyptian efforts to help, especially as many Egyptians live and work in eastern Libya and in Derna, the coastal city devastated by the floods.
“The impact of the devastating floods brought by Storm Daniel was further exacerbated by the fragile political situation and poor infrastructure in Libya,” he said.
Libya fell into turmoil after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The country has not managed to recover and is currently ruled by two rival administrations that have battled for power ever since.
The coastal city of Derna was badly hit by devastating floods earlier this month, sweeping thousands to their deaths and leaving thousands of others missing. More than 40,000 people have been displaced across northeastern Libya.
The floods were caused by the bursting of two dams near Derna because of the pressure of torrential rains from Storm Daniel that hit the country a few days earlier.
The dams had been originally built to protect the city from flooding.
International aid arriving from the UN and the European countries, including Germany, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, and Belgium, has helped to ease the suffering of thousands of survivors.
The UAE, Turkey, Tunisia and Algeria are among the nations that have declared that they will send humanitarian aid to Libya.
The bodies of 145 Egyptians who died in the disaster were handed over to Egypt last week. There are at least 140,000 Egyptians who are legally living in Libya, according to the International Organisation for Migration. Thousands of others are living illegally. Nearly half of them live in the east of the country.
In Morocco, a strong earthquake struck the Al-Haouz region in the south of the country earlier this month causing significant casualties. Hospitals in the southern city of have been overwhelmed with patients, some with severe or life-threatening injuries.
More than 2,800 people died in the disaster, and hundreds are still missing.
Al-Hefni said that solidarity with disaster-hit countries had a positive effect on bilateral relations, as was shown when Syria and Turkey were hit by an earthquake in March this year.
Egypt sent supply ships that carried hundreds of tons of relief aid to both countries.
Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri visited both countries and toured the most-affected areas in a show of solidarity with them.
The move contributed to easing bilateral tensions between Egypt and both countries.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 21 September, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly