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Home World News Washington Post World News Some of Beirut’s harbor silos, damaged by the 2020 explosion, collapse

Some of Beirut’s harbor silos, damaged by the 2020 explosion, collapse

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BEIRUT – Some of Beirut’s massive grain silos, shredded during the 2020 explosion, collapsed into a massive dust cloud on Sunday after a week-long fire caused by grains fermented and ignited in the summer heat.

The northern block of the silos toppled after what sounded like an explosion, whipping up thick gray dust that enveloped the iconic structure and harbor adjacent to a residential area. It was not immediately clear if anyone was injured.

Assaad Haddad, the general manager of the Port Silo, told The Associated Press that “everything is under control,” but the situation has not yet resolved. Minutes later, the dust settled and calm returned.

However, Youssef Mallah, of the Civil Defense Department, said other parts of the northern block of the silos were in danger and other parts of the massive ruin could collapse.

The 50-year-old, 48-meter-tall silos had withstood the force of the explosion two years ago, effectively shielding western Beirut from the blast that killed more than 200 people, injured more than 6,000 and severely damaged entire neighborhoods.

In July, a fire broke out in the northern block of the silos due to the fermenting grains. Firefighters and soldiers of the Lebanese army were unable to extinguish it and it smoldered for weeks, a nasty smell spreading. The Environment and Health ministries last week instructed residents near the port to stay indoors in well-ventilated areas.

The fire and the dramatic sight of the partially blackened silo revived memories and in some cases trauma for the survivors of the massive explosion that ripped through the harbor on August 4, 2020.

Many rushed to close the windows and returned inside after Sunday’s collapse.

Rima Zahed, whose brother died in the 2020 explosion and who was part of a group of survivors lobbying to preserve the silos as evidence of the harbor explosion, accused the government of not taking action to extinguish the weeks-long fire.

“We talked about this three weeks ago, but they chose to do nothing and set it on fire,” she said. “This shows the failure of the state.”

When the fermenting grains ignited earlier in July, Lebanese firefighters and army soldiers had tried to put out the fire, but officials and experts said they had to stop, fearing the extra moisture from the water would worsen the situation. The interior ministry said more than a week later the fire had spread after reaching some power lines nearby.

The silos continued to smolder for weeks as the stench of the fermented grains seeped into nearby neighborhoods. Residents and survivors of the explosion told the AP that seeing the smoking silos was similar to reliving their trauma from the harbor blast. The Ministries of Environment and Health last week instructed residents living near the port to stay indoors in well-ventilated areas.

The Lebanese Red Cross distributed K-N95 masks to local residents and officials ordered firefighters and dock workers to stay away from the immediate vicinity of the silos.

Emmanuel Durand, a French civil engineer who volunteered to join the government-assigned team of experts, told the AP earlier in July that the silo’s northern block had begun to tilt slowly over time, but the recent fire was accelerating its rate. and caused irreversible damage to the already weakened structure. He told the AP on Sunday that he was sending warnings that other parts of the northern bloc could collapse in the near future

Durand has been monitoring the silos thousands of miles away using data produced by sensors he installed more than a year ago, and kept a team of Lebanese government and security officials informed about developments in a WhatsApp -group. He repeatedly warned that a collapse was imminent.

Last April, the Lebanese government decided to demolish the silos, but suspended the decision after protests from families of the victims and survivors of the explosion. They claim that the silos may contain evidence useful for the forensic investigation, and that it should serve as a memorial to the tragic incident.

The explosion in the port of Beirut was one of the largest explosions in Lebanon’s troubled history. It took place less than a year after an uprising that rocked Lebanon, with hundreds of thousands of protests against the country’s deeply rooted sectarian political parties. The blast also accelerated Lebanon’s economic crisis, costing billions of dollars in damage and destroying thousands of tons of grain. Three quarters of the population now lives in poverty.

Barely standing, the silos have since become an iconic structure in the heart of the ruined harbour, surrounded to this day by crushed vehicles and warehouses and mounds of rubble.

The collapse of part of the northern part of the silos on Sunday comes just days before the second anniversary of the explosion in 2020.

The Lebanese investigation found that senior government and security officials were aware of the hazardous material stored in the port, although no officials have been convicted so far. The officials involved subsequently took legal action against the judge who led the investigation, suspending the investigation since December.



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