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    Two years after the explosion at the port of Beirut, where is Lebanon?

    The investigation has stalled but the Lebanese ruling class, accused of mismanagement and corruption, continues to cling to power as the population suffers from shortages, power cuts and runaway inflation.

    Two years ago to the day, on August 4, 2020, an explosion destroyed the port of Beirut and devastated entire neighborhoods of the Lebanese capital, killing more than 200 people and injuring more than 6,500.

    The huge explosion was triggered by a fire in a warehouse that housed tons of ammonium nitrate stored, “without precautionary measures” according to the authorities. It is one of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded that hits a country hit by a deep economic crisis.

    Grain silos symbols of the drama collapse

    Two years later, the city is again plunged into deep concern. Grain silos damaged by the blast of the explosion collapsed in Beirut, this Sunday, July 31, following a fire. A cloud of dust covered the harbor after two of the 48 towers collapsed. Army helicopters immediately flew over the area to drop water and attempt to completely extinguish the fire in the structure.

    “Two other towers are in danger of collapsing,” Public Works Minister Ali Hamiye said.

    More than two weeks ago, a fire broke out in the most damaged part of the silos, caused according to the authorities and experts by the fermentation of the remaining grain stocks, combined with high temperatures.

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    This screenshot obtained from video distributed by the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI) shows parts of Beirut's grain silos collapsing on July 31, 2022.
    This screenshot obtained from video distributed by the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI) shows parts of grain silos in Beirut collapsing on July 31, 2022. © LBCI / AFP

    Rekindled trauma

    The fire rekindled the trauma of relatives of victims of the August 4, 2020 explosion. The Ministries of Environment and Health have issued recommendations for the public in the event of the silos collapsing, in particular on the need to evacuate the area, wear masks and close the windows of the accommodations.

    “I hope seeing the silos falling will give people the will to fight for justice, to fight with us,” said Tatiana Hasrouty, a resident who lost her father in the blast.

    In April, Lebanon ordered the demolition of the silos, but the decision was suspended due to opposition from relatives of the victims of the tragedy who want to make it a place of memory.

    Power cuts, rationing, inflation, exodus…

    The 2020 mega-explosion is a nightmare in Lebanon’s already turbulent history, now mired in the worst economic crisis in its history and facing relentless power cuts, runaway inflation and widespread despair.

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    The explosion was felt as far as Cyprus, a Mediterranean island located 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. Bakeries ration bread, power cuts can last up to 23 hours a day, streets are dark at night and traffic lights are out of order.

    A man walks out of a bakery with a bag of subsidized flatbread, as others continue to queue, in the Lebanese capital Beirut, July 29, 2022, amid wheat supply shortages.
    A man walks out of a bakery with a bag of subsidized flatbread, as others continue to queue, in the Lebanese capital Beirut, July 29, 2022, amid wheat supply shortages. © JOSEPH EID / AFP

    Stalled investigation

    But the relatives of victims have received no response from their leaders as to the presence of tons of ammonium nitrate stored without precaution, at the origin of the explosion. Investigations have stalled since late 2021, due to political obstruction, and not a single official has been tried.

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    The main investigator, Tarek Bitar, having been 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.

    For two years, the investigation has been hampered or even suspended several times, strongly impacted by the political instability in the country where three Prime Ministers have succeeded since the explosion.

    “The Lebanese are still waiting for justice to be done”

    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”. .

    “This tragedy was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in recent history, yet the world has done nothing to understand why it happened,” said the six experts who are mandated by the Human Rights Council but do not speak on behalf of the United Nations.

    “On this second anniversary of the explosion, we are heartbroken to see that the people of Lebanon are still waiting for justice to be done, and we call for an international investigation to be opened without delay,” they added.

    Three protest marches by relatives of victims determined to continue their fight for truth and justice are planned this Thursday towards the port where smoke is still rising from the silos.

    Source: BFM TV

    Awutar
    Awutar
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