BEIRUT — A week after erupting on July 31 in a textile warehouse in Beirut's southern suburbs, a huge fire continued to burn on Monday. Efforts to quell the flames have already led to the death of one Civil Defense member amid extremely difficult firefighting conditions. L'Orient Today asks: What are the factors contributing to the continuance of this fire in spite of the concerted efforts by Civil Defense firefighters and other local firefighting units to put it out?
The textile warehouse is located on the three lower floors of a building that contains apartments on its upper floors, whose residents had to escape after the fire erupted.
Videos shared on social media show smoke and flames coming from the lower floors of the building where the warehouse is located.
The fire has damaged a paper warehouse near the textile warehouse, another building to the east of the building burning, Amliyeh supermarket and four floors of the building burning, a spokesperson for the Civil Defense told L'Orient Today. The spokesperson also said that in addition to the one death, 12 Civil Defense volunteers have been injured during efforts to fight the blaze. Most of these injuries involved burns and smoke inhalation.
The Civil Defense's media office explained to L'Orient Today the main reasons why the teams have so far been unable to extinguish the fire.
"There are vital complications that are obstructing the operation of extinguishment, one of which is the fact that the warehouse on fire is adjacent to other warehouses, one of which is for the Amliyeh supermarket," the media office said, explaining that access to the fire through this supermarket has not been possible because it would entail damaging private property. This means, the media office said, that the Civil Defense can only approach the fire through the main entrance of the building that is ablaze.
A second factor in making the fire difficult to douse is the accumulation of goods inside the warehouse, the media office said, explaining that this has hampered access to the source of the fire.
The media office went on to say that the "stocking of the products inside the warehouse near the houses is very dangerous and should have been done under the supervision of the local authorities in the area, like the municipality, which is authorized to give the warehouse the license for general safety."
"What is noticeable is that the products were piled up at the warehouse without any measures that take into account general safety rules, which resulted in obstructing the pathway to reach the source of the fire," the Civil Defense media office added.
The head of the Higher Relief Committee, Mohammad Kheir, told L'Orient Today on Monday that amid the struggle to extinguish the fire, a group of engineers has arrived at the scene to help figure out a plan to tackle the flames.
"The Civil Defense Directorate deployed volunteers from its centers across Lebanon, which have been working 24 hours a day to be able to contain the fire. Controlling the fire is in its last stages, and we are waiting for the end of these operations to inform the public that we have finally extinguished the fire," the Civil Defense media office added.