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A helicopter is dousing the Beirut port silos with water, following the collapse of another section of the silos.
A Civil Defense source told L'Orient Today that four silos collapsed today but that it was not clear whether more might be in danger of collapsing immediately.
(Photo credit: João Sousa/L'Orient Today)
Soha Mneimneh of the Order of Engineers and Architects and Our City, Our Silos Campaign, said. “We are demanding that what remains of the silos be salvaged, and we demand that the way decisions are taken be transparent, and that those who prevented the putting out of the fire at the silos be held accountable, and we demand that the silos be reinforced immediately”
“Forces of Change” MP Melhem Khalaf (new opposition groups/Beirut II) blamed the "authorities" for not taking action to prevent the silos collapsing.
“They let them burn for four weeks, since July 7, and didn't do anything," he said. "They should have put the fire out and done something so that the silos don’t collapse.” He added that the moment when the silos fell today felt like “history repeating itself”
Protesters observed a moment of silence to mark the moment when the blast took place, at 6:07 p.m.
The gathered crowd waits for the clock to strike 6:07 p.m., which will mark two years exactly since the devastating Aug. 4 port explosion.
“Forces of Change” MP Najat Aoun (new opposition groups/Chouf), who was present at the port blast anniversary protests, said, “We are working from inside the Parliament to pressure the government to reopen the investigation [of the blast] so the judge [Tarek Bitar, head of the port investigation] can go back to working in the proper way.” She added that the opposition MPs are working with “international entities” such as the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and the European Union to reopen the investigation. With regard to the silos, she said, “The eastern part of the silos are burning. We are currently trying to pressure the government to put the fire out and save this part of the silos.”
Another "Forces of Change" MP, Ibrahim Mneimneh of Beirut II, said, “We will keep pushing for the investigation to take place, because if we don’t, we would have hindered justice for the future generation.”
Nahida Khalil of the Beirut Madinati party said, “It's going to be a long road. They [the country’s leaders] are criminals ,but we are doing all that we can to face them. They are obstructing justice on purpose but we will not give up.”
Tracy Naggear, mother of three-year-old port blast victim Alexandra Naggear, told L'Orient Today that she “doubts the collapse of the silos today, at this exact hour, happened by itself.” She said that she lives very close to the silos and can see them from her window every morning.
“They are the silent witness,” she said, adding that the fires at the port "been burning for three weeks now and [authorities] failed to do anything about it.”
Protesting near the Beirut port, where another section of silos collapsed today, Mahmoud Al-Zahed, 36, brother of Amin Al-Zahed who died while working at the port on Aug. 4, told L'Orient Today, “The collapse of the silos is intentional from the authorities so they prevent the protestors from approaching this area today.”
He added that the authorities had not made an effort to reinforce the structure.
A group of victims' families from a splinter group representing the relatives of the victims of the Beirut port blast gathered for their own protest in front of gate three of the port.
Ibrahim Hoteit, a spokesperson for the group, said that he has documents that prove that Judge Tarek Bitar is “not doing his job right.” He blamed the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which he said was patrolling off the coast near the port of Beirut, for allowing the ammonium nitrate to land at the port as well as on the Lebanese Army and its commander-in-chief at the time, General Jean Kahwaji.
Another section of the Beirut port silos has collapsed, sending up a massive cloud of dust, as hundreds gathered in downtown Beirut to protest on the two-year anniversary of the Aug.4 port explosion, our correspondents on the ground reported.
A Lebanese Army spokesperson told L'Orient Today that the entire northern section of the silos had come down. The army had already evacuated a 500-meter radius around the port, he said, and are not taking additional steps to evacuate a wider area following the silos' collapse.
(Credit: Mohammed Yassine/OLJ)
Scuffles have broken out between protesters and security forces in front of the Parliament building downtown, where L'Orient Today's correspondents on the ground reported hearing shots fired. It was not immediately clear whether they were rubber bullets or live fire.
Meanwhile, family members of the port explosion victims over a loudspeaker urged calm and called for protesters to go to the Emigrant Statue next to the port rather than continuing their attempt to breach the Parliament.
Around 300 people joined by a scouts band gathered in front of the firefighter's station in Karantina, where they unfurled a large Lebanese flag. Some of the protesters will march towards the Emigrant Statue near the port, while others will ride firefighting vehicles there.
“I'm not only here because I lost a family member but also as a citizen. I cannot believe that the same corrupted politicians are back. This is plain indecency — we’re here today to avoid a new catastrophic event and more deaths in this country,” Jihad Noun, a relative of Joe Noun, a firefighter who died during the Aug. 4, 2020 port explosion, told L’Orient Today from the protest at the firefighters’ station.
By the Annahar building in downtown Beirut, Majeed Helou, father of victim Nicole Helou, said, “One word, we want justice... All the hot air they’re making now is not justice. It’s a regime without justice. If there’s no independent judiciary, there’s no justice. The people who are guilty need to be punished and those who are innocent can stay at home. From the day that Lebanon was born, we haven’t seen one official held accountable. They all need to be held accountable, the big ones and small ones. We can't make any exceptions.”
Ajwad Chaya, father of victim army soldier Jawad Chaya, carrying a photo of his late son and a noose symbolically intended for the political class, said, “They’re all corrupt, everyone from the President to the lowest security [forces] member. All of them are accused until proven innocent, we’re going to continue to trail the perpetrators until we hang them on this noose. Let them make judicial appointments now!”
Protesters started marching from the French embassy towards Annahar newspaper in downtown Beirut, where they will be joined by another group before marching to the Emigrant Statue near the port.
Tracy Naggear, who lost her three-year-old daughter, Alexandra, in the explosion, said in a prepared statement in front of the French embassy that she felt "great disappointment" after the promises of President Macron.
"Why does the French president legitimize a corrupt political class? ... We have no answer to that," Naggear said, standing alongside her husband, Paul, adding, "We are calling for international justice."
Meanwhile, Sarah Copland, mother of two-year-old Isaac, who was also killed in the blast, wrote on Twitter, "Never in a million years did I imagine Isaac to become known in this way. But I am grateful to the Lebanese people who have adopted him as one of their own and always remember him."
In front of the French embassy, some protesters held red ribbons, distributed by the families of victims, to wear over their eyes “as a symbol to tell France to stop being blinded and allow an international investigation to start,” one organizer told L’Orient Today.
Aya Majzoub, Human Rights Watch’s researcher for Lebanon, said in front of the embassy that the group has submitted evidence for an investigation to take place to several international entities, yet they have not taken any action.
“In all our talks with international countries concerning an international fact-checking mission, they all said that we want a green light from France, but until now France has been standing in the face of families of victims,” she said. “Macron has not fulfilled his promises to follow up on the investigation. A Human Rights Council meeting will take place in September. We hope that Macron will propose the case during the meeting.”
Twenty-four-year-old Ghida Farhat, who works in marketing in Dubai, and who participated in the march, told L’Orient Today that she came from Dubai to be here on this day. “I have had two panic attacks so far. I woke up and saw the video of Aug. 4. This march, I believe, is to stay that we did not forget.”
Around 300 people started marching from the Justice Palace in Aadlieh towards the Annahar newspaper building in downtown Beirut, where they will be joined by another group of people, before heading to the Emigrant Statue near the port to mark the second anniversary of the Aug.4, 2022 port blast. The march will stop by the French embassy to call for the French to stop obstructing the demand for a United Nations fact-finding mission on the blast, lawyer Diana Assaf, one of the organizers of the march, told L'Orient Today.
Several hundred people gathered in front of the Justice Palace in preparation to march downtown to the port.
Karim Saffieddine of the organization Mada said, "We won’t have the same numbers as last year. The main reason is despair. There is also the problem of the silos. But it was a necessary move."
Indeed, protester Khodor Eido, 25, said from in front of the Justice Palace, “Today what I feel is despair more than anger... They are destroying the silos right now. Until now, we do not have justice. Even some relatives of the victims are not here. I feel like victims are just pictures. Nobody cares. The Lebanese do not care anymore. And you can see it, we are way less people than last year."
On the second anniversary of the Aug. 4, 2022 at least three marches demanding justice for the victims of the explosion are planned to take place — starting from the Justice Palace, the an-Nahar building and the fire station in Karantina, at 3 p.m., 4 p.m., and 4 p.m., respectively. All three will converge at the Statue of the Emigrant next to the port.
Meanwhile, a splinter group of families of victims of the port blast explosion, led by spokesperson Ibrahim Hoteit, will protest today at gate three of the port, where they plan to announce a separate march. Hoteit's group split off from the main committee representing the victims' families due to disagreements over their stance on the port blast investigation, with the main group of families supporting investigating Judge Tarek Bitar, while Hoteit's group is opposed to his handling of the probe.
The marches come against the backdrop of the partial collapse of the heavily damaged grain silos at the port on Sunday, while an expert told L'Orient Today that another section of the Beirut port silos could collapse "anytime."
Protesters have begun to gather in front of Beirut's Justice Palace for the first of three marches scheduled for today's commemoration of the Aug. 4, 2022 port explosion.
While we wait for today's events to kick off, read Lyana Alameddine's account of how blast survivors are dealing with their still-raw wounds two years later, Mohamed El Chamaa's profile of some of the volunteers who hit the streets to help in the post-blast response, and Claude Assaf's explainer on the state of the port blast investigation.
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