Beirut (AFP) – Part of the huge grain silos in Beirut port was torn apart in an explosion in 2020It collapsed in a huge cloud of dust on Sunday after a weeks-long fire caused by fermented grains and ignited in the summer heat.
The northern block of the silos collapsed after what appeared to be an explosion, causing thick gray dust to envelope the famous structure and port adjacent to a residential area. It was not immediately clear if anyone had been injured.
“Everything is under control” but the situation has not calmed down yet, Asaad Haddad, Port Silo’s general manager, told the Associated Press. A few minutes later, the dust subsided and calm returned.
But Youssef Mellah of the Civil Defense said that other parts of the northern block of silos are at risk and that other parts of the gigantic ruin may collapse.
The 50-year-old silos, which are 48 meters (157 feet) high, withstood the force of the blast two years ago, Effectively protecting the western part of Beirut from the explosion that killed more than 200 people, injured more than 6000 and severely damaged entire neighborhoods.
In July, a fire broke out in the northern block of silos due to fermentation of grain. Firefighters and Lebanese army soldiers were unable to put it out, the smoke burning for weeks, and it smelled foul. Last week, the Ministries of Environment and Health issued instructions to residents living near the port to stay indoors in well-ventilated areas.
The fire and dramatic scene of the black silo partially revived memories and in some cases shocked For survivors of the massive explosion that hit the port on August 4, 2020.
Many rushed to close the windows and go home after the collapse on Sunday.
Rima Zahid, whose brother died in the 2020 explosion, was part of a group of survivors pushing to preserve the silos as evidence of the port bombing.He blamed the government for not taking action to put out a weeks-long fire.
“We’ve been talking about this three weeks ago,” she said, “but they chose not to do anything and left it on fire.” This shows the failure of the state.
When the fermented grain caught fire earlier in July, Lebanese firefighters and army soldiers tried to put out the flames., but officials and experts told them to stop, fearing that additional moisture from the water would worsen the situation. More than a week later, the Interior Ministry said the fire had spread after it reached some nearby electrical cables.
The silos continued to burn for weeks as the smell of fermented grain seeped into neighboring neighbourhoods. Residents and blast survivors told the AP that seeing the smoking silos was akin to re-shocked from the port explosion.. Last week, the Ministries of Environment and Health issued instructions to residents living near the port to stay indoors in well-ventilated areas.
The Lebanese Red Cross distributed K-N95 masks to those living nearby, and officials ordered firefighters and port workers to stay away from the area near the silos.
Emmanuel Durand, a French civil engineer who volunteered on the government-commissioned panel of experts, told the Associated Press earlier in July that the northern block of the silo had been tilting slowly over time, but the recent fire had accelerated the rate and caused irreversible damage. The chassis is already weak. He told The Associated Press on Sunday that he sent warnings that other parts of the northern bloc could impending collapse
Durand had been monitoring silos from thousands of miles away using data produced by sensors he had installed over a year ago, and he briefed a team of Lebanese government and security officials on developments in the WhatsApp group. He repeatedly warned that collapse was imminent.
The Lebanese government decided last April to demolish the silos, but suspended the decision after protests from the families of the blast victims and survivors. They maintain that the silos may contain evidence useful for a judicial investigation, and that they should serve as a memorial to the tragic accident.
The Beirut port explosion was one of the largest in Lebanon’s turbulent history. It happened less than a year after an uprising rocked Lebanon, as hundreds of thousands protested against the country’s entrenched sectarian political parties. The explosion also caused the outbreak of the economic crisis in Lebanon, costing billions of dollars in losses Destroying thousands of tons of grain. Three quarters of the population now lives in poverty.
The silos, barely standing, became an iconic building in the heart of the ruined port, surrounded to this day by vehicles, wrecked warehouses, and piles of debris.
The collapse of part of the silos’ northern section on Sunday comes just days before the second anniversary of the 2020 eruption.
The Lebanese investigation revealed that senior government and security officials are aware of the dangerous materials stored in the port, although no official has been convicted so far. Subsequently, the officials involved filed legal challenges against the judge leading the investigation, which has put the investigation on hold since December..
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