Some of Beirut’s huge harbor grain silos, shredded in the 2020 explosion, collapsed into a massive cloud of dust on Sunday after a weeks-long fire caused by grains fermented and ignited in the summer heat.
The northern block of the silos collapsed after what sounded like an explosion, whipping up thick gray dust that enveloped the iconic structure and harbor adjacent to a residential area. It was not immediately clear if anyone was injured.
Assaad Haddad, the general manager of the Port Silo, told The The Bharat Express News that “everything is under control,” but the situation has not yet resolved. Minutes later, the dust had settled and calm returned.
However, Youssef Mallah, of the Department of Civil Defense, said other parts of the northern block of the silos were in danger and other parts of the giant ruin could collapse.
The 50-year-old, 48-meter-tall giant silos withstood the force of the explosion two years ago and effectively protected western Beirut from the chemical explosion that killed more than 200 people, injured more than 6,000 and severely damaged entire neighborhoods.
In July, a fire broke out in the northern block of the silos due to the fermenting grains. Firefighters and soldiers of the Lebanese army were unable to extinguish it and it smoldered for weeks, an unpleasant smell spreading. The Environment and Health ministries last week instructed residents near the port to stay indoors in well-ventilated areas.
The fire and the dramatic sight of the smoldering, partially blackened silo revived the memories and in some cases trauma for the survivors of the massive explosion that ripped through the harbor two years ago.
People rush in after collapse
Many rushed to close the windows and returned inside after Sunday’s collapse.
Emmanuel Durand, a French civil engineer who volunteered to join the government-assigned team of experts, told the TBEN that the silo’s northern block had been tilting since the day of the 2020 blast, but the latest fire had its weak structure. impaired. accelerate a possible collapse.
When the fermenting grains ignited earlier in July, firefighters and Lebanese soldiers tried to put out the fire with water, but withdrew after moisture made it worse. The interior ministry said more than a week later the fire had spread after reaching some power lines nearby.
The silos continued to smolder for weeks as the smell of fermented grain seeped into nearby neighborhoods. Residents who survived the 2020 explosion said the fire and smell reminded them of their trauma. The Ministries of Environment and Health last week instructed residents living near the port to stay indoors in well-ventilated areas.
The Lebanese Red Cross distributed K-N95 masks to local residents and officials ordered firefighters and dock workers to stay away from the immediate vicinity of the silos.
Engineer says collapse was inevitable
Emmanuel Durand, a French civil engineer who volunteered to join the government-assigned team of experts, told the TBEN earlier in July that the silo’s northern block had slowed down over time, but the recent fire had slowed down the rate. accelerated and irreversible damage to the already weakened structure.
Durand has been monitoring the silos thousands of miles away using data produced by sensors he installed more than a year ago, and kept a team of Lebanese government and security officials informed about developments in a WhatsApp -group. In several reports, he warned that the northern bloc could collapse at any moment.
Last April, the Lebanese government decided to demolish the silos, but suspended the decision after protests from families of the victims and survivors of the explosion. They claim that the silos may contain evidence useful for the forensic investigation, and that it should serve as a memorial to the tragic incident.
The Lebanese investigation found that senior government and security officials were aware of the hazardous material stored in the port, although no officials have been convicted so far. The officials involved subsequently took legal action against the judge who led the investigation, suspending the investigation since December.