Disasters & Accidents

Grain silos on fire 2 years after Beirut port explosion

By Noemi Jabois

Beirut, Aug 1 (EFE).- Nearly two years after a massive blast rocked the port of Beirut, many residents have been re-living the trauma for weeks due to a persistent fire at the ruins of the port’s grain silos, risking a total collapse.

The silos housed most of Lebanon’s grain reserves from the 1970s until August 4, 2020, when tons of improperly stored ammonium nitrate exploded in a warehouse located just meters from the port, leaving more than 200 people dead and entire neighborhoods in the capital flattened.

The remains of the huge granaries have been reminiscent of the blast that caused immense damage across the city.

For more than two weeks, a fire has been smoldering in the ruins of the silos due to the fermentation of the wheat and corn that have been stored inside since before the explosion.

The authorities have carried out several unsuccessful attempts to extinguish the fire, but in vain.

According to the government, pouring water would create more humidity and favor the fermentation process of the grain, while trying to transfer the 3,000 tons of wheat and corn stored in the silos would be too dangerous for the teams due to the threat of collapse.

Some of the northern grain silos collapsed Sunday, creating a thick cloud of dust, amid the fire that has been raging for weeks.

A few days ago, the ministries of health and environment issued a detailed action guide warning citizens that if the silos collapsed they should immediately evacuate the areas within a radius of 500 meters.

Cecile Roukoz, who lost her brother in the explosion, blames the authorities for the increased danger of collapse.

The Lebanese authorities decided in April to tear down the silos but relatives of the victims and civil society groups have called on the government to preserve them to remind people of one of Lebanon’s worst tragedies.

“We want those silos as a memorial for our victims because they were killed and we have to preserve a memorial for them,” Roukoz tells Efe during a recent protest organized by the Solidarity Campaign for the protection of the silos in the Beirut port.

The ammonium nitrate that exploded in 2020 had been stored in the port for years without security measures, and several top leaders acknowledged that they knew it existed.

The investigation into the explosion has been blocked by a number of high-ranking officials suspected of negligence in the case.

“They want to demolish the silos to erase their crime and we will not allow them to do so,” Roukoz says.EFE


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