A Turkish construction company that worked on maintaining the Derna dams has deleted the relevant page on its website, after more than 11,000 people in the city died when the barriers collapsed last week.
There are next to no details online about Ansel. One business listing page online says it was founded in Ankara in 1987 by Orhan Ozer; it has completed “housing projects, state and private sector buildings, infrastructure works and dam and irrigation projects” and has become a “well-known company both domestically and internationally”.
The same page says it has a minuscule revenue of $460,000 and two employees. None of the details on the listing site could be confirmed as the company’s website has been taken down and there appears to be no way of contacting the managers.
“The maintenance was never done, it was never performed. The decision was made to repair the dam in 2007. But by the time the revolution erupted, the Turkish company fled without anything being done,” says Jalel Harchaoui, a Libya expert at the Royal United Services Institute think tank in London.
The dams were originally built in the 1970s by a Yugoslav construction company. They were designed to protect the city from flash floods, which were not uncommon and to help irrigate crops.
The Derna dam was much closer to the city and could hold 1.5 million cubic metres of water; Abu Mansour was 14 kilometres away and could hold up to 22.5 million cubic metres of water.
They were both damaged in 1986 when a strong storm hit the region. In 1998, a Libyan government study revealed cracks in the structures. But work only began to repair them in 2010.
Four months later, the uprising against Colonel Gadafi began, the work on the dam was abandoned and thousands of Turkish workers were evacuated from Libya.
According to a 2021 report by Libyan state auditors, more than $2 million was set aside to maintain the dams, but the money was never spent.
“What are the signs available that show this company it has a decent or even an acceptable track record? Nobody is finding anything that confirms that the company is real. Now, there are questions about whether it exists at all. Was it just an empty shell?” continues Harchaoui.
I can go to Turkey and ask Turkish friends to set up a company. And then, I would have something to present as a legal entity. But that doesn’t make it real in the sense. If it was a bogus company, how come it was able to convince hard-headed [Gaddafi-era] civil servants responsible for signing the company to do so? How come they were able to do it?”
Tortoise was unable to reach Ansel for a comment.
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