Libya flood disaster damaged ancient city but revealed new remains


The adjacent ancient Greek city of Cyrene suffered damage from the water that killed hundreds in Derna, Libya, last month. Still, it also uncovered fresh archaeological relics by washing away dirt and stones.

Scientists estimate that Storm Daniel may have dropped a meter of rain on the hills of eastern Libya, the most since records began in the middle of the 19th century. Water was still running through the area when Reuters visited last week.

According to Adel Boufjra, an official with the local antiquities department, the floods caused sludge and rubble to pile up in Cyrene’s Greek-era baths, which would require specialized cleanup.

Although the damage thus far has been minimal, he warned that the floods may have contributed to the sinking that might ultimately topple one of the monuments.

He stated that because of the abundant subsurface water throughout the winter, “I’m pretty sure and expecting that one of these landmarks could collapse.”

The attractive remains of Cyrene, known locally as Shehat and a magnet for tourists since the 18th century, may suffer significant damage. Still, the water has revealed a hitherto undiscovered Roman drainage system, according to Boufjra.

“The flooding has uncovered a new location: a water channel that, in my opinion, is Roman. For the city, it is a remarkable find, he added.

The World Weather Attribution, an international research organization, said that climate change had contributed to up to 50% more rain falling during the storm than would have been the case in the past, highlighting potential hazards to cultural assets.

Before becoming a significant Roman city and being devastated by an earthquake in the year 365, Cyrene was a Greek colony and one of the great towns of the ancient Hellenic civilization.

Cyrene’s stone-pillared temples are on a lush slope next to steep crags and are one of Libya’s five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, along with the large Roman remains overlooking the Mediterranean at Sabratha and Leptis Magna.


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