Science

Middle East: Two years after the Beirut explosion, Lebanon is on the verge of

PublishedAugust 4, 2022, 05:23 AM

Middle EastTwo years after the explosion in Beirut, Lebanon is on the verge of

Two years after the deadly explosion in the port of Beirut, the investigation is stalled, and the relatives of the victims are still demanding truth and justice.

The explosion on 4 August 2020 killed more than 200 people and injured 6,500.

AFP

On Thursday, Lebanon marks the second anniversary of the giant explosion in the port of Beirut, which devastated entire areas of the capital, with a demonstration by relatives of the victims, determined to continue the fight for truth and justice.

An explosion on August 4, 2020 in a warehouse storing hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate without precautions, one of the largest non-nuclear explosions on record, killed more than 200 people and injured 6,500.

However, the Lebanese investigation was thwarted by political interference, and so far no government official has been held accountable for the tragedy that re-emerged last week. Experts say several badly damaged grain silos in the port fence have collapsed, while others are in danger of collapsing.

Nightmare

“I hope that the fall of the bunkers will give people the will to fight for justice, to fight with us,” resident Tatyana Khasruti, who lost her father in the explosion, told AFP. Politicians are “doing everything in their power to stop the investigation,” she lamented.

This mega-explosion is a nightmare in the already turbulent history of Lebanon, mired in the worst economic crisis in its history, facing relentless power outages, rampant inflation and general despair.

Three separate protest marches are scheduled for Thursday towards the port, where smoke from bunkers still billows from a fire caused by grain stocks fermenting in the scorching summer heat.

mass exodus

A powerful explosion two years ago was felt even in Cyprus, a Mediterranean island about 200 km away. This further affected the already crisis-tested population and provoked a mass exodus from Lebanon, reminiscent of the outcome of the civil war of 1975-1990.

But Lebanon’s ruling class, accused of mismanagement, corruption and blatant neglect, continues to cling to power while the population suffers from shortages of fuel, medicine and drinking water.

“This ruling class is killing us every day,” says Tatyana Khasruti. “Those who did not die in the explosion are starving,” she said. Bakeries dispense bread on ration cards, power outages can last up to 23 hours a day, streets are dark at night, and traffic lights don’t work.

collapse risk

In April, the government ordered the demolition of the bunkers, but this was put on hold, in part due to objections from relatives of the victims who want them to be preserved as a place of remembrance. French civil engineer Emmanuel Durand, who oversees the bunkers, warned that the risk of another partial or total collapse “has never been greater.”

The investigation is also in jeopardy as chief investigator Tarek Bitar has been prevented from continuing his mission by a series of lawsuits against him and a campaign led in particular by the powerful Hezbollah armed movement, a heavyweight in local political life.

On Wednesday, independent experts from the UN and NGOs called for an “immediate launch” of an international investigation, stressing that “it is clearer than ever that a national investigation cannot restore justice.”

(AFP)

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