Beirut silo collapses, reviving trauma as blast anniversary nears

Environment Minister Nasser Yassin said that while the authorities did not know if other parts of the silos would fall, the southern part was more stable.

The fire at the silos, glowing orange at night inside a port that still resembles a disaster zone, had put many Beirut residents on edge for weeks.

Traces of disaster

There has been controversy over what do to with the damaged silos.

The government took a decision in April to destroy them, angering victims’ families who wanted them left to preserve the memory of the blast. Parliament last week failed to adopt a law that would have protected them from demolition.

Citizens’ hopes that there will be accountability for the 2020 blast have dimmed as the investigating judge has faced high-level political resistance, including legal complaints lodged by senior officials he has sought to interrogate.

More than 200 people were killed in the catastrophic explosion at Beirut’s port in 2020.Credit:Getty Images

Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati has said he rejects any interference in the probe and wants it to run its course.

However, reflecting mistrust of authorities, many people have said they believed the fire was started intentionally or deliberately not been contained.

Divina Abojaoude, an engineer and member of a committee representing the families of victims, residents and experts, said the silos did not have to fall.

“They were tilting gradually and needed support, and our whole goal was to get them supported,” she told Reuters.

“The fire was natural and sped things up. If the government wanted to, they could have contained the fire and reduced it, but we have suspicions they wanted the silos to collapse.”

Reuters could not immediately reach government officials to respond to the accusation that the fire could have been contained.

Earlier this month, the economy minister cited difficulties in extinguishing the fire, including the risk of the silos being knocked over or the blaze spreading as a result of air pressure generated by army helicopters.

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Fadi Hussein, a Karantina resident, said he believed the collapse was intentional to remove “any trace of August 4”.

“We are not worried for ourselves, but for our children, from the pollution,” resulting from the silos’ collapse, he said, noting that power cuts in the country meant he was unable to even turn on a fan at home to reduce the impact of the dust.

Reuters

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