The gigantic explosion on August 4, 2020 at the port of Beirut killed more than 200 people and injured 6,500, destroying thousands of buildings. While the investigation has stalled since the suspension of Judge Bitar, independent experts from the United Nations and NGOs are calling for an international investigation “without delay”.
Lebanon marks, Thursday, August 4, the second anniversary of the gigantic explosion at the port of Beirut which devastated entire districts of the capital. The explosion on August 4, 2020 in a warehouse housing hundreds of tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored without precautions – one of the largest non-nuclear explosions on record – killed more than 200 people and injured 6,500.
Three separate protest marches are planned for Thursday towards the port where smoke is still billowing from silos after a fire sparked by fermenting grain stocks in the scorching summer heat. The relatives of victims are determined to continue their fight for truth and justice.
Yet the investigation in Lebanon has been hampered by political interference and no state official has so far been held responsible for the tragedy.
The main investigator, Tarek Bitar, was prevented from pursuing his mission by a series of lawsuits brought against him and a campaign led in particular by the powerful armed movement of Hezbollah, a heavyweight in local political life.
Independent UN and NGO experts on Wednesday called for an international investigation to be launched “without delay”, stressing that it was “clearer today than ever that the national inquiry cannot deliver justice”. .
The silos, a place of memory, are collapsing
The tragedy had a new development last week. Several badly damaged grain silos in the port enclosure have collapsed. French civil engineer Emmanuel Durand, who monitors the silos, warned that the risk of another partial or total collapse had “never been higher”.
In April, the government had ordered the demolition of the silos, but this has been suspended, in particular because of objections from relatives of victims who want them to be kept as a place of memory.
“I hope seeing the silos fall will give people the will to fight for justice, to fight with us,” Tatiana Hasrouty, a resident who lost her father in the blast, told AFP. Politicians are “doing everything in their power to stop the investigation”, she lamented.
This mega-explosion is a nightmare in Lebanon’s already turbulent history, now mired in the worst economic crisis in its history, facing relentless power cuts, runaway inflation and widespread despair.
A suffering population
The huge explosion two years ago was felt as far away as Cyprus, a Mediterranean island about 200 km away. It affected even more a population already tested by the crisis and provoked a massive exodus from Lebanon reminiscent of that of the civil war of 1975-1990.
But Lebanon’s ruling class, accused of mismanagement, corruption and blatant neglect, continues to cling to power as the population suffers from shortages of fuel, medicine and drinking water.
“This ruling class kills us every day,” says Tatiana Hasrouty. “Those who didn’t die in the explosion are starving,” she said. Indeed, eight out of ten people live below the poverty line in Lebanon, according to a survey by the Central Administration of Statistics (ACS) carried out in 2020.
Bakeries ration bread, power cuts can last up to 11 p.m. a day, streets are dark at night and traffic lights are out of order.
Source: France 24