Silo in Beirut collapses, trauma revives ahead of blast anniversary

  • Silos a towering reminder of the August 4, 2020 explosion
  • Smoldering fire had the residents of Beirut on edge for weeks
  • 2020 blast seen as symbol of corruption Lebanese elite

BEIRUT, July 31 (Reuters) – Some of the grain silos in the port of Beirut collapsed on Sunday, just days before the second anniversary of the massive explosion that damaged them, sending a cloud of dust over the capital and traumatic memories of the explosion who took their lives revived. more than 215 persons.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Lebanese officials warned last week that some of the silos – a towering reminder of the catastrophic explosion of August 4, 2020 – could collapse after the northern section began to tilt at an accelerated pace.

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“It was the same feeling as when the blast happened, we remembered the explosion,” said Tarek Hussein, a resident of the nearby Karantina area, who was shopping with his son when the collapse happened. “There were some big pieces falling off and my son got scared when he saw it,” he said.

A fire had been smoldering in the silos for several weeks, officials said as a result of the summer heat igniting fermenting grains that have been left to rot inside since the explosion.

The 2020 blast was caused by ammonium nitrate that has been unsafely stored in the port since 2013. It is widely seen by the Lebanese as a symbol of corruption and bad governance by a ruling elite that has also sent the country into devastating financial collapse.

One of the most powerful non-nuclear explosions ever, the blast injured some 6,000 people and shattered parts of Beirut, leaving tens of thousands homeless.

Ali Hamie, the transport and public works minister in the outgoing government, told Reuters he feared more parts of the silos would collapse soon.

Environment Minister Nasser Yassin said that while authorities did not know if other parts of the silos would fall, the southern part was more stable.

The fire in the silos, which glow orange at night in a harbor that still looks like a disaster area, had many Beirut residents on edge for weeks.


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

The government made a decision to destroy them in April, angering the families of the victims who wanted to leave them to preserve the memory of the blast. Parliament did not pass a law last week that would protect them from demolition.

Citizens’ hopes that responsibility will be taken for the 2020 explosion have faded as the investigating judge has faced high-level political backlash, including legal complaints filed by senior officials he has sought to question.

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

However, due to distrust of authorities, many people have said they believed the fire was deliberately lit or was deliberately out of control.

Divina Abojaoude, an engineer and member of a committee representing victims’ families, residents and experts, said the silos did not need to fall.

“They gradually tipped over and needed support, and our whole goal was to get them supported,” she told Reuters.

“The fire was natural and accelerated things. If the government had wanted to, they could have controlled and reduced the fire, but we have suspicions that they wanted the silos to collapse.”

Reuters was unable to immediately reach government officials to respond to allegations that the fire could have been contained.

Earlier this month, the economy minister mentioned difficulties in putting out the fire, including the risk of the silos being knocked over or the fire spreading due to air pressure generated by army helicopters.

Fadi Hussein, a resident of Karantina, said he believed the collapse was deliberate to remove “every trace of August 4.”

“We are not worried about ourselves, but about our children, because of the pollution,” he said, following the collapse of the silos. impact of the dust.

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Written by Nayera Abdallah and Tom Perry Edited by Hugh Lawson, Nick Macfie and Frances Kerry

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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