Saturday, December 4

The ruins remain, but 200 people have left. The first anniversary will be a day of mourning in Lebanon.


A major explosion in the port of Beirut killed more than 200 people a year ago. On Wednesday, Lebanon marks the event with a national day of mourning.

A drone image taken the day after the August 4 explosion last year shows the massive destruction in the Lebanese capital.

The explosion and air pressure left much of the city center in ruins, killing 211 people and injuring 6,000. The explosion could be heard in Cyprus, 240 km away. The tremors on the ground corresponded to an earthquake with a magnitude of 3.5, according to German seismologists.

The skeleton of a silo was the only thing left when large amounts of stored unsafe and unsafe ammonium nitrate, which is used in manure, were released into the air. The explosions are said to have been caused by a fire in a former warehouse, where 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate were placed in 2013. Just over 550 tons exploded on August 4, 2020, FBI investigators concluded, according to Reuters.

In hindsight, it has emerged that authorities for six years ignored a series of warnings about the danger.

French initiative

The world community demands political reforms to help the country. But without a permanent government, it is difficult to do so. Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri has stopped trying to form a new government, which could intensify the chaos.

French President Emmanuel Macron has invited a new international conference to discuss the crisis in Lebanon. It takes place on the anniversary of August 4 and is organized in collaboration with the UN, reports the French Foreign Ministry.

The areas next to the port looked like a war zone. Broken windows, broken doors and open houses where the facade was destroyed in seconds. The bloodied inhabitants wandered in shock. More than 30,000 people lost their homes and more than a quarter of a million had to relocate temporarily.

Drone footage showed that the blast destroyed much of Lebanon’s grain storage. The UN feared it would lead to a food shortage. Lebanon imports 80 percent of the grain the country consumes, and much of it is stored in the port.

News that authorities had received repeated warnings about the risk has sparked major anti-government protests in Beirut.

Distorted iron

More than 700 French soldiers and ships were sent to Beirut to help clean up after the explosion. Germany has also contributed a lot to construction.

In April, dozens of containers with dangerous chemicals were removed from warehouses at the port of Beirut in April this year. In total, more than 8,000 tonnes of deformed steel and concrete have been removed from the port area.

On Wednesday all public institutions and municipal buildings will be closed, and flags will fly at half-mast. All to commemorate the anniversary of the worst destruction Beirut has ever suffered.

– Television and radio programs must be adapted to the day of remembrance. The country will provide solidarity, it is stated in the announcement on the state channel.

Fight for the power of the government

The political settlement after the explosion is far from over. Large demonstrations targeted the country’s political and economic elite, who were accused of misrule. Prime Minister Hassan Diab quickly resigned.

Many blame paralyzed politicians for the action. According to the constitution, power in Lebanon will be divided among the three main groups in the country: Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims and Christians. Negotiations over the power of the government have repeatedly stalled the gap between them.

The struggle for power has led Lebanon to remain without a government. The country’s former prime minister, Hassan Diab, resigned as a result of the explosion. Saad Hariri has so far been unsuccessful in his attempts to form a government.

Subsequently, large demonstrations and clashes broke out with the country’s security forces. But it has not been enough to profoundly shake the political system.

The ruins of the silo remain in the port of Beirut and are reminiscent of the force of the explosion that hit the city on August 4 last year.

Change the constitution to hold people accountable

On Tuesday, Saad Hariri’s party will present an important proposal to the National Assembly. They want to remove a constitutional provision that has exempted presidents, prime ministers and other elected representatives from punishment.

A year after the explosion, the Lebanese authorities have not yet been able to provide a credible explanation for how the ammonium nitrate could end up in the port of Beirut. Nor who bought it and had it transported to the port warehouse.

Among those expressing sympathy for Lebanon on the anniversary is soccer legend Ronaldinho. Among other things, he will visit the Karantina Fire Station, which lost 10 crews in the explosion. He will also lay a wreath in memory of the victims at the port.

The economic crisis in Lebanon is the worst since the civil war ended in 1990. By then, the country had been at war for 15 years.


www.aftenposten.no

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