Disasters & Accidents

Normal life returns to Beirut, bit by bit

By Noemi Jabois

Beirut, Nov 5 (efe-epa).- Three months after the powerful explosion hit Beirut, traffic is flowing in Gemmayzeh, a badly damaged neighborhood in the Lebanese capital, with people heading to the newly-reopened bars and shops.

Cafes with shattered glass, tables on the floor and shops of all kinds closed up tight can still be seen when walking through Gemmayzeh, which is located nearby the port, the epicenter of the 4 August blast that killed over 200 people and injured 6,500.

However, messages of hope such “Our place is destroyed, but we are not,” and “Beirut will rise again,” are written on the doors of some shops, while others have started to reopen after a heavy process of reconstruction in recent weeks.

Several people were injured amid the tragedy at the Barbell House gym in Gemmayzeh, including a “close friend and an excellent customer,” who ended up losing his life after spending two months in a coma, the gym owner, Nicolas Antakly, explains to Efe.

Antakly himself was hit by the glass and his wife, Tania, had to undergo a major operation on her head and remained eight days in the intensive care.

“The gym was completely destroyed, so we had to rebuild from scratch, we lost walls that fell down and it took us one month of reconstruction and now we are fine again,” says Antakly while sitting on an exercise machine.

Now the gym is back to normal. Techno music resonates within its new walls, as gym-goers are lifting heavy weights.

“First thing that pushed me to rebuild it was my wife. When she came out of the hospital, she came to see the gym and she said to me ‘when are you going to start rebuilding the gym?'” adds Antakly.

“The love the customers have for this place” also helped, as there were two crowdfunding campaigns launched by Antakly’s brother from the Netherlands and an athlete from Australia, in which many collaborated to help rebuild the gym.

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