BEIRUT — The fire at the Beirut port grain silos ignited again Thursday with billows of smoke pouring out of the crumbling structure. Rescue teams arrived later to the scene to extinguish the fire following a decision from the interior ministry.
Here’s what we know:
• The fire which erupted on Thursday is the latest in a series of blazes at the silos, which were reportedly caused by “the exposure of fermented wheat to heat,” according to the director general of the Beirut port. Caretaker Economy Minister Amin Salam during a visit to the site told local news Al Jadeed that “fires will continue as long as wheat remains,” while noting that the wheat maintained the stability of the silos which “if emptied, could collapse.”
• “In compliance with the directives of the Minister of Interior Bassam Mawlawi and under the supervision and presence of the Director General of Civil Defense, Brigadier General Raymond Khattar, firefighting and cooling operations began in the wheat silos inside the Beirut Port in coordination with the Beirut Fire Brigade and the Army Command,” the Lebanese Civil Defense said in a statement Thursday.
• The spokesperson of the Interior Ministry told L’Orient Today that the decision came after consulting Mikati, heeding the requests of families of victims to put out the fire, two weeks after they started. Khattar told L’Orient Today that rescue teams are putting the fire out “from a safe distance,” declining to give further information on the measures being taken to extinguish the fire.
• Forces of Change MP Paula Yacoubian submitted an urgent draft law Thursday to classify the silos as national monuments amid what she claimed were “vigorous and serious attempts to demolish the wheat silos.” The Cabinet approved the demolition of the silos on March 16 despite protests from civil society groups and the relatives of the port blast victims.
• Caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi called on “the Beirut fire brigade and civil defense to immediately cool the silos in a way that does not jeopardize peoples’ safety or the silos” in a statement Thursday. This comes after one of the fires at the port raged for nearly a week, with firefighters banned from entering the port by Public Works Minister Ali Hamieh, who said it was out of fear that the silos would collapse.
• On Saturday, opposition MP Melhem Khalaf said an ”agreement” was reached to extinguish the fires in cooperation with the Lebanese Army after firefighters were unable to access the port for nearly two weeks. Later the same day an army helicopter was seen dousing the flames.