2023 was a year marked by numerous environmental disasters across Africa, displacing millions and causing widespread devastation. While ranking these events definitively is difficult due to varying scales and impacts, here are 4 of the most significant environmental disasters that struck the continent in 2023
Cyclone Freddy hit Madagascar, Mozambique et al.
Described as the world’s strongest and longest-lasting tropical cyclone ever recorded, Tropical Cyclone Freddy hit Madagascar, Mozambique, Mauritius, Malawi, and Zimbabwe early this year, leaving behind a devastating impact of a kind that the countries affected are still struggling with.
From February 22 to May 8, heavy rains and ferocious winds caused widespread flooding, landslides, and infrastructure damage. At least 800 persons lost their lives, and properties worth millions of dollars were destroyed.
Earthquake in Morocco
In September, a massive earthquake ripped through Morroco in North Africa. The 6.8-magnitude tremor centred near Adassil in the High Atlas Mountains, unleashing chaos.
Over 2,900 people lost their lives, thousands were buried under rubble, and ancient cities like Marrakesh were affected.
Described as the biggest earthquake in Morocco this century, the disaster also affected remote mountain villages in Morocco’s Al Haouz province. The devastation was particularly profound in Amizmiz, a mountain town approximately 20 miles (about 32 km) northeast of the earthquake’s epicentre. Large portions of the city were flattened, and emergency responders expressed concerns that up to 2,000 individuals might have lost their lives due to collapsing debris and walls.
Several smaller settlements were also affected. Tafeghaghte, located approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) from Amizmiz, was reduced to rubble, resulting in the death of over 90 residents and the destruction of almost all of the town’s 100 houses.
Flooding in Rwanda
In May, torrential rainfall caused heavy flooding in Rwanda, affecting the country’s Northern, Southern and Western provinces. The strong rains destroyed homes, blocked roads, and wiped out crops and animals.
The death toll from the disaster was described as “ the highest disaster-induced death toll to be recorded in the country in the shortest period, according to available records from recent years” by local media.
More than 100 people were said to have died from the flooding, and more than 18,000 persons were displaced.
Hurricane Daniel and a collapsed dam in Libya
On September 10, 2023, Hurricane Daniel hit eastern Libya; the storm resulted in the loss of over 4,300 lives and destroyed buildings in towns, notably in Sousa, Al Bayda, Al Marj, and the coastal city of Derna. At some point during the disaster, more than 10,000 persons were declared missing, with another 20,000 displaced.
In Derna, the dam, built to hold a maximum of 22 million cubic meters of water, was filled with about 100 million cubic meters. The excessive pressure ultimately caused the dam to collapse, flooding the city. Critical infrastructure such as bridges, roads, and electricity grids suffered considerable damage due to the storm.