Disasters & Accidents

Scars of Beirut port blast still fresh two years on

By Noemí Jabois y Ana María Guzelian

Beirut, Aug 3 (EFE).- Two years after a massive explosion that rocked the port of Beirut and killed over 200 people, Elias has rebuilt his home in Karantina, the neighborhood adjacent to the port, with makeshift furniture.

But Elias is an exception in Karantina, which has been scarred since the blast and never been the same since. His neighbor’s home is still in ruins and the streets of the working class neighborhood are empty after many of its residents chose to leave after the devastating explosion.

“All my neighbors left, they came after the explosion, cleaned the house and left, (…) Not many people came to live in the area since then,” the 52 year old Syrian national who has been living in Lebanon for decades tells Efe.

The blast that struck Beirut’s port on August 4, 2020 killed over 200 people and injured 6,500. Although two years have passed since the incident, the scars of Karantina and its people are still fresh.

Sitting in the same room where he was when the explosion hit Beirut’s port, Elias tells Efe how the blast hurled him to the door, which actually saved his life by bursting inwards.

“My flat was severely damaged, the windows, fridge, washing machine and the kitchen were destroyed, as well as the balcony on the other floor. As you can see, the decoration of the house is all done by me, nothing was left,” he tells Efe while showing pictures of the devastation on his mobile phone.

Elias has since received two payments of $200 dollars (196 euros) in official aid from the Lebanese army as well as food assistance from NGOs following the blast.

But many local residents had to rebuild their houses by their own means and without much help from the Lebanese government, which has been struggling with an economic crisis since 2019.

The Lebanese army has distributed some $6.7 million dollars reaching just over 27,000 housing units of the at least 200,000 damaged or destroyed homes by the blast, according to official data.

“I helped people and people helped me, but I lost a lot in this neighborhood,” Elias, who worked as a plumber for an NGO after the explosion, says.

A few streets away from his home in Karantina, four Syrian families are still sharing the same flat they resided in on August 4, 2020.

All 20 of them, including several children, survived the blast but lost all their appliances and the flat was badly damaged.

The families were able to fix parts of the house with the help of NGOs but have not received any assistance from the Lebanese army.

“It is very difficult for us to move to another flat, the rents are very high and everyone is asking for money in US dollars, at least $200 or $250 dollars,” one of the family members, Abdullah, tells Efe.

For weeks, a fire has been raging at the ruins of the port’s grain silos, risking a total collapse of the port. Although the residents are having to relive the same trauma again, they have no choice but to cope with the fear they have been living with for two years. EFE


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