BEIRUT — Lebanon’s government approved Wednesday a decision to demolish what remains of the Beirut grain silos’ crumbling northern block while preserving the southern block, Forces of Change MP Melhem Khalaf confirmed to L’Orient Today.
A decision to demolish all of the silos was first approved by the government in March but was met by challenges and public anger as families of the victims of the 2020 Beirut port explosion demanded their preservation as a “witness to the crime.”
During a meeting on Wednesday between caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, caretaker Environment Minister Nasser Yassin and Forces of Change MPs Najat Saliba and Khalaf, the government reached a decision to demolish only the already collapsing northern block of the grain silos but preserve the stable southern side, in addition to extinguishing the fire at the silos that has been ablaze for more than a month.
Khalaf explained to L’Orient Today that the decision was made on the account of the northern block’s inevitable collapse, incited by the fire. “Should we just sit back and watch it fall?”
Khalaf added that Wednesday’s decision includes amending the government’s decree to demolish the silos, stressing the preservation of the southern silos as a “witness memorial over the painful port explosion.”
Khalaf also noted that amending the decree might be an exceptional decision taken by President Michel Aoun and the government.
Eight silos from the northern block have already collapsed — four fell on July 31 and another four fell, in a morbid twist of fate, on the second anniversary of the Beirut explosion. Experts say that the collapse of additional silos from the northern block is “inevitable,” adding that “the reinforcement of the northern block is no longer an option.”
In a press conference Wednesday, caretaker Public Works Minister Ali Hamieh said that there are plans to build new silos in the ports of Beirut and Tripoli as well as in the Bekaa Valley. He explained that the silos in the Beirut port would cover an area of 25,000 square meters while the one in Tripoli would cover 36,000 square meters and hold 125 tons of grain. Hamieh provided no details on the silos construction plan in the Bekaa.
When asked about their opinions on the decision to demolish the northern silos, caretaker Economy Minister Amin Salam and Hamieh claimed they weren’t informed or consulted on the decision and declined to comment, noting that “our priority is food security.”
Following the meeting, Yassin said that upon demolishing the northern silos, all the rubble and grain could be removed to prevent the fire’s source which has been emitting pollutants and affecting people's health, adding that this combustion has been taking place organically. “After cleaning the rubble, it would be possible to focus on the southern silos and work on reinforcing them.”
When asked about the parties who will be involved in the technical side of this decision, Yassin explained that “there is a technical committee composed of all official departments, including all ministries, the disaster management committee and the port management committee, which is following up on the matter.” He added that a meeting this afternoon will take place to discuss this matter with Aoun.
Saliba commented on Wednesday’s decision saying, “We would’ve liked all the silos to remain as a memorial and as a witness to the crime, but in light of the ongoing fire and the silos’ collapse, we decided that this solution is the most appropriate solution to preserve and clean the southern side.”