GENEVA (Reuters) - The head of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Thursday that casualties could have been avoided in the floods that hit Libya if the divided country had a functional weather service able to issue warnings.
Speaking to reporters in Geneva, WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said Libya's main challenge in managing the aftermath of floods that have killed thousands was that the governing was "not functioning normally".
"If they would have been a normally operating meteorological service, they could have issued a warnings," he said.
"The emergency management authorities would have been able to carry out evacuation of the people. And we could have avoided most of the human casualties."
Rescue operations are complicated by political fractures in the country that has been at war on-and-off with no strong central government since a NATO-backed uprising toppled Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
An internationally recognised Government of National Unity (GNU) is based in Tripoli, in the west, while a parallel administration operates in the east, including the city of Derna, which has been devastated by flooding.
Taalas said WMO had previously been in touch with Libyan authorities to assist them in reforming the meteorological system, but that these efforts had been hampered by security threats.
"Since the security situation in the country is so difficult, it's difficult to go there and improve the situation," he said.
(Reporting by Cécile Mantovani; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by)