Disasters & Accidents

Elie’s agony, searching for his missing father at Beirut port

By Isaac J. Martín

Beirut, Aug 15 (efe’epa).- When Elie learned that his father Ghassan was at the Beirut Port wheat silos when the explosion took place, he began to search for him with no help from the authorities.

“We are completely lost,” Elie Hasrouti, 35, tells Efe at his flat located in the Christian neighborhood of Sin el Fil eastern Beirut, where religious icons are mixed with dozens of family photos.

Elie, whose house was not affected by the explosion, has embarked on a journey to find out the whereabouts of his father, without any success so far.

When the explosion occurred on 4 August, leaving over 170 people killed, Elie was 30 km away from the port and thought his father was at home.

“I could not imagine that he would be in the place of the explosion” at the time, he says.

His 59-year-old father has been working at the port silos for 38 years, he explains as he holds one of his photos.

“He has been there all the civil war (1975-1990). He used to go there under attacks,” Elie says.

The harbor had underground shelters, he adds.

“It was very safe,” he laments as he recalls the explosion that was powered by 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate which have been stored at the port for six years, according to the authorities.

Ghassan was at the silos administration office, alongside seven employees when “the disaster” took place at 18:08 local time, devastating the port and the surrounding neighborhoods.

A few minutes before the explosion, Elie received a message from his father checking whether he had his car fixed.

“We just looking for information from friends on site and friends of friends and that was from day one,” the telecommunication engineer and drummer adds.

“We have arrived into the conclusion that certainly he is not in the hospital,” he lamented that no officials have contacted his family thus far.

He has been seeking information on DNA, but “we do not have any place to go and officially ask and be informed in details what is happening why they are taking too long in this test”.

“They informed (us) that they will start the rescue mission in the morning Wednesday (the following day) at 4:30,” but it took them 45 hours to get it underway.

Although the Health Ministry announced dozens of people are reported missing after the explosion, the ministry has stopped counting them and as of now the number of injured has been set at over 6,000 without providing details.

Thus far, the whereabouts of around 30 people remain unknown, a military source told Efe on Saturday.

The Lebanese army and rescue teams are working at the port to recover bodies from under the rubble, but the mission to find survivors was called off on Sunday.

“This is really frustrating. They are not up to the level to this disaster,” Elie says.

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