Beirut silo collapse renews shock ahead of bombing anniversary

  • A tall reminder of the August 4, 2020 eruption
  • Smoldering fires have kept Beirut residents on edge for weeks
  • The 2020 bombings are seen as emblematic of the corruption of the Lebanese elite

BEIRUT, July 31 (Reuters) – A section of grain silos in the port of Beirut collapsed on Sunday, days before the second anniversary of a massive explosion that damaged them, sending a cloud of dust over the capital and reviving traumatic memories of the blast that killed. More than 215 people.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Lebanese officials warned last week that part of the silos — the tallest reminder of the devastating Aug. 4, 2020 eruption — could collapse after the northern side tilted at a rapid rate.

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“It was the same feeling as when the blast happened, we remembered the blast,” said Tarek Hussain, a resident of nearby Karantina, who was out shopping for groceries with his son when the collapse happened. “Some big pieces fell and my son got scared,” she said.

A fire had been smoldering in the pits for weeks, authorities said, the result of the summer heat igniting fermenting grains that had rotted inside since the explosion.

The 2020 explosion was caused by unsafely stored ammonium nitrate at the port since 2013. It is widely seen by Lebanese as a symbol of the corruption and bad governance of the ruling elite, which has led the country to a disastrous financial collapse.

One of the most powerful non-nuclear explosions on record, the explosion injured around 6,000 people and devastated parts of Beirut, leaving tens of thousands homeless.

Ali Hami, minister of transport and public works in the caretaker government, told Reuters that several sections of the pits were at risk of immediate collapse.

Regarding this, Environment Minister Nasser Yasin said that although the authorities do not know whether other parts of the silos will fall, the southern part is the most stable.

Fires in pits that glow orange at night inside the port, which still resembles a disaster zone, have kept many Beirut residents on edge for weeks.

AUG’s ‘removal traces’. 4

There has been controversy over what to do with the damaged ditches.

The government made a decision in April to destroy them, angering families of victims who wanted them left to preserve the memory of the bombing. Parliament last week rejected legislation to protect them from demolition.

Citizens’ hopes for accountability for the 2020 bombings have dimmed as the trial judge faced high-profile political opposition.

Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati has said he rejects any interference in the investigation and wants it to run its course.

However, many said they believed the fire was set intentionally or deliberately, reflecting distrust of the authorities.

Divina Abojaoude, an engineer and member of a group representing families of victims, residents and experts, said the pits don’t have to fall.

“They were gradually leaning and needed support, and our whole objective was to get them support,” he told Reuters.

“The fire was natural and accelerated things. If the government wanted, they could have controlled the fire and reduced it, but we doubt they wanted the pits to collapse.”

Reuters could not immediately reach government officials for comment on allegations that the fire may have been controlled.

Earlier this month, the economy minister cited difficulties in fighting the fires, including the risk of trenches collapsing or fires spreading as a result of air pressure created by military helicopters.

Quarantine resident Fadi Hussain said he believed the collapse was deliberate to remove “any trace of Aug. 4.”

“We are not worried about ourselves, but for our children, from the pollution,” he said, adding that due to power cuts in the country, he could not even run a fan at home as a result of the collapse of the pits. Impact of dust.

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Written by Nayera Abdullah and Tom Perry Editing by Hugh Lawson, Nick McPhee and Francis Kerry

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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