Part of Beirut silo complex collapses as port blast anniversary nears
What was expected, happened. On Sunday afternoon, the most fragile part of the wheat granaries in the port of Beirut, badly damaged two years ago as a result of the huge explosion, collapsed.
It was fortunate that, when the two silos fell on the northern side during a holiday weekend, it came several days after the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Environment had taken precautionary measures to avoid any possible human or further material damage.
The scene of the collapse of the two silos, and the brown dust cloud that rose following it, recreated the scene of the explosion of Aug. 4, 2020, and concerns spread among residents in the vicinity of the port that the cloud might reach them. There have been warnings that this dust contains black mould and other fungi after tons of grain stored in there decayed due to the humidity and heat.
Efforts to empty and clear the silos earlier had proved difficult due to huge structural damage in the walls and foundations.
The MoH had asked people at the moment of the collapse to wear high-quality masks and for those living within 1,500 meters to close all doors and windows.
Monitors and sensors, developed by a French technical team around the silos, detected changes in the silos’ bending speed, which reached more than 5 mm per hour two days ago.
Army helicopters quickly sprayed water over the collapse site to prevent the dust cloud from expanding further.
Environment Minister Nasser Yassin told Arab News: “The southern parts of the silos are good so far. As for the north sections, a number of silos collapsed, and there is a possibility that more will fall, and the sensors placed indicate more bends, and we are closely following the situation."
Deputy Najat Saliba, a professor of analytical chemistry and an atmospheric chemist at the American University of Beirut, said: “The readiness on the ground was clear, the dust was removed quickly, and there is no (further) need to wear masks.”
The families of the victims of the Beirut port explosion had demanded the facilities not be destroyed, which authorities had decided to do last May, in order to keep the scene as a “silent witness to the crime committed against the people.”
The true series of events, and responsibility for the tragedy, has not yet been established, with political pressure, finger-pointing and delaying tactics obstructing the judicial investigation.
Yassin suggested that “the southern part of the wheat granaries that are still standing will be preserved as a memorial,” and stressed that “there should be demolition of some of the parts that are in danger of falling.”
The presence of the wheat granaries protected the southern part of Beirut from the devastating explosion that destroyed the city’s waterfront, killing 232 victims and wounding thousands.
Activist William Noun, a spokesman for the victims of the port, said: “After the fall of the cracked sections, we call on people to go down on Aug. 4 to the vicinity of the port to commemorate the second anniversary.
“What matters to us is that the impact of this crime perpetrated by the state remains.”