Welcome to Thursday’s Early Edition from i.
“The sea is constantly dumping dozens of bodies,” one minister in Libya’s eastern administration revealed yesterday as he warned the death toll from floods was likely to rise further. “Bodies are lying everywhere – in the sea, in the valleys, under the buildings,” Hichem Abu Chkiouat said. “I am not exaggerating when I say that 25 per cent of the city has disappeared. Many, many buildings have collapsed.” The UN has described the floods, which may have killed as many as 20,000 people, as a “calamity of epic proportions”. Dr Najib Tarhoni, a doctor working in Benghazi, said: “I have never seen something like this in my life. I have lived through two civil wars, I have lived through a revolution where people have died left and right. I see people die from the armed conflicts but nothing like this, this is overwhelming, this is bigger than us.” Horrific details of entire sleeping families being washed away as water levels reached up to 20 metres, or the aftermath of bodies lying “everywhere” are emerging from the disaster zone. This year has seen a shocking level of destruction at the hands of natural disasters, from unprecedented fires, heatwaves, earthquakes and floods. But some say the scale of horror unleashed in Derna, Libya could have been avoided. We’ll look at why, after the headlines.
Today’s news, and why it matters
The father of 10-year-old Sara Sharif has been arrested on suspicion of her murder by police after returning to the UK from Pakistan. Urfan Sharif was detained with his partner Beinash Batool and his brother Faisal Malik minutes after they touched down at Gatwick in dramatic scenes on Wednesday, more than a month after police first said they were looking to speak with them.
Vulnerable children under the age of five are still at risk of being left in the cold and dark this winter despite new rules aimed at tackling the forced installation of prepayment meters in the UK’s poorest homes. Almost two million households with children will not be protected by Ofgem’s ban on forcibly installing prepayment meters, i can reveal.
“Patchy” delivery of Covid vaccines throughout the country could delay the autumn booster roll-out, pharmacies have warned. The rollout has been brought forward, due to the presence of the Pirola strain of the virus. Dr Leyla Hannbeck told i: “It has been chaos … many places have not received their vaccines.”
Two women arrested at a vigil for murder victim Sarah Everard in March 2021 have secured payouts from London’s Metropolitan Police. The force has paid “substantial damages” to Dania Al-Obeid and Patsy Stevenson, who were both detained at the event on Clapham Common in March 2021, which was held amid ongoing Covid restrictions after Ms Everard’s murder by serving police officer Wayne Couzens.
Tobias Ellwood has resigned as chair of the Commons Defence Committee after being threatened with a no-confidence vote for appearing to praise the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan. The senior Conservative jumped as the committee’s MP members prepared to oust him on Wednesday afternoon over a video he posted from Afghanistan in July that lauded the country’s “transformation” under the Taliban.
The Home Office has been accused of continuing with building work at a former RAF base earmarked for asylum seekers in defiance of a legal order to halt the conversion. Plans to house up to 2,000 migrants at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, once home to the Red Arrows and the Dambusters, have sparked a bitter feud between the Government and locals who fear it will scupper a £300m regeneration programme.
Three key factors that made the Libya floods so deadly:
‘Gangster regimes’: Since the Gaddafi regime was overthrown in 2011 during a rebellion assisted by Nato-backed forces, Libya has been plagued by instability and lawlessness. The country is now run by two rival administrations, one in the east and one based in the west. Patrick Cockburn describes them as “two gangster regimes which are funded by oil money and open to any criminal enterprise”. He points to the failures of the administration of eastern Libya’s ruler, Khalifa Haftar. He writes: “… [there] are allegations that the mayor of Derna, Akram Abdul Aziz, asked the Haftar regime to evacuate his city as Storm Daniel neared but had his request turned down by the authorities.” Read his full piece here. The accusation was also echoed by Moin Kikhia, from the Libya Democratic Institute think-tank, who was quoted in The Guardian saying: “The environmental disruption of the storm was turned by endemic corruption and lack of governance into something of a biblical catastrophe. At times the water reached 20 metres high so people on the third floor were washed away to sea. Audit documents show these dams were not maintained for years.” And Rashad Hamed, a data specialist consultant at the UN children’s fund, Unicef, said: “The humanitarian catastrophe in Derna, Libya is different from the humanitarian catastrophe in Marrakech. The Moroccan earthquake could not have been avoided or mitigated, while the Derna disaster was caused by negligence and gross negligence, the price of which was paid by thousands of victims.”
Disorganisation: The political instability has also been blamed for the chaotic response to the floods. Rescue volunteer Azeldin al-Sharif told The Times: “People lost their families because of disorganisation — the rescue effort was late and badly run. The loss suffered by locals cannot be measured, but what they want now is an end to the chaotic response.” He said delays meant mud, up to three metres deep, was drying quickly and making it harder to remove the bodies. There are also issues with international rescue teams accessing the area. Claudia Gazzini, a senior Libya analyst at International Crisis Group, explained that “international efforts to send rescue teams have to go through the Tripoli-based government, which means permissions to allow aid inside the most affected areas have to be approved by rival authorities”.
Climate change: The weather system that hit Derna is known as a “Medicane” – a combination of “Mediterranean” and “hurricane”, and brought more than 400mm of rain within a 24-hour period. Libya’s National Meteorological Centre said it was a new rainfall record, and for comparison, the region usually receives about 1.5mm rainfall in an average September. Climate and regional experts have expressed shock at the event. Climate expert Christos Zerefos, secretary general of the Academy of Athens, told Reuters the flood was an “unprecedented event”. Margaret Harris, spokesperson for the World Health Organisation, said: “There’s not been a storm like this in the region in living memory, so it’s a great shock”. While it is hard to pinpoint one weather event to climate change, Mr Zerefos says we can “expect such phenomena to happen more often.” Karsten Haustein, a climate scientist and meteorologist at Leipzig University in Germany, told Time magazine that in a cooler world, Storm Daniel probably “wouldn’t have developed as quickly and rapidly as it did. And it wouldn’t have hit Libya with such ferocious strength.”
Around the world
Earth is exceeding its “safe operating space for humanity” in six of nine key measurements of its health, a study by a group of international scientists has said. The planet’s climate, biodiversity, land, freshwater, nutrient pollution and “novel” chemicals are all off-kilter, it found. “We are in very bad shape,” the study’s co-author said.
State-sponsored terror groups and extremists are learning from Russian drone tactics in Ukraine to plot copycat attacks against civilian infrastructure, experts have warned. Regular attacks on targets such as electricity networks and grain silos using multiple unmanned aerial vehicles, including Iranian-made “kamikaze” drones, have proved to be one of the most enduring innovations of Russia’s 18-month effort to subjugate Ukraine.
Kim Jong-un invited Vladimir Putin to visit North Korea during their meeting at a space base on Wednesday, an offer the Russian president accepted, according to Pyongyang’s state media. Mr Kim told Mr Putin that their meeting had brought bilateral ties to a new level, and expressed his willingness to foster stable, future-oriented relations for the next 100 years, news agency KCNA said.
China has proposed a law to punish people with jail time for dressing up in clothes that “hurt the nation’s feelings”, as part of a new security bill. Commentators say the crackdown is specifically aimed at anything Japanese, since the law targets cosplay and kimonos.
Two months after US Congress held an unusual session on UFOs, Mexican politicians were presented with claims that aliens might exist. Jaime Maussan, a “ufologist” presented two boxes of supposed mummies with shrivelled bodies found in a Peruvian mine as supposed evidence of extraterrestrial life.
Watch out for…
Keir Starmer and Yvette Cooper, who are expected to talk about how a Labour government would tackle people-smuggling chains at a meeting with the EU’s policing body, Europol, at The Hague.
Thoughts for the day
A year on from the mini-Budget and Truss’s defenders are growing louder. If the Tories lose the next election – and particularly if they lose badly – it will be time to rebuild, says Katy Balls.
Theresa May is telling a fairytale about her Brexit deal. This is the truth. May encouraged Brexiter fever dreams and then fell victim to that which she had nurtured, writes Ian Dunt.
I sometimes feel guilty about my sexual fantasies, but now I’m letting my imagination run wild. I often lose control over them, which can make them hard to enjoy, reveals Kate Lister.
Abuse of Power by Theresa May: The former PM leaves no stone unturned, except when it comes to her own failings. In this crisply written book, Mrs May accepts her premiership will be remembered for her failure to deliver Brexit. But we are all only self-aware up to a point, writes Isabel Hardman.
The Big Read
Why men are falling for Andrew Huberman’s ‘bro wellness’ regime. The American neuroscientist has a devoted following of “Huberman husbands”, who shun caffeine, take ice baths and wear blue-light glasses… i investigates the boom in male self-care.
Harry Maguire is caught in a catch-22 and it’s not his fault. Maguire can’t help being picked by Southgate when he is in bad form, writes Mark Douglas.
Something to brighten your day
Family holidays are drudgery – which is why I travel alone once a year. Travelling with children is just parenting in a less convenient location, says Georgina Fuller, who takes a trip away by herself when she can afford it.