Beirut Relives August Blast as Smaller Fires Rise Near Port
On Aug. 4, Beirut, Lebanon experienced the third largest explosion in history after a shipment of ammonium nitrate caught fire at the city’s port. The blast killed 190 people, injured thousands, and brought buildings to the ground in a six mile radius around the initial site.
With the explosion heard in surrounding countries, the event proved to be one of the most tragic the region has experienced in years. Over the course of the country’s history, this will be the seventh time Beirut will need to be rebuilt.
When the cause of the explosion in early August was revealed as gross negligence from Lebanon’s government improperly storing the ammonium nitrate, protesters took to the streets with a diverse set of intentions. Some echoed the country’s 2019 revolution and rallied against Lebanon’s corrupt government. Others called for intervention from foreign countries, mainly France.
Over a month after the explosion, Beirut has experienced smaller scale fires in the same area, scaring the thousands who were scarred by the port explosion. On Sept. 10, a fire broke out in a warehouse containing oil and tires. A plume of black smoke rose, drawing the attention of thousands of people and cameras. The damage from the fire included a number of food parcels and other items sent from foreign countries as aid after the blast in August.
On Sept. 15, a smaller fire damaged part of a well known shopping center designed by British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid. Firefighters were able to control the flames before anyone was hurt.
Although no loss of life occurred, the fires cut deep into the hope of the Lebanese population. Many watched the fires happen in fear for their lives, reliving the trauma of the blast. Multiple people have expressed the belief that their country is beyond help, and that the corruption has embedded itself too far into Lebanese politics and society. Some have developed theories of the government setting the fires on purpose to cover up evidence from the explosion.
Despite the visible differences of religion, politics, and ethnicity that characterize Lebanon’s population, the events of recent months have united many under a call for change. Even before the explosion, Lebanon was suffering from the impacts of occupation, civil war, corruption, and economic disaster. Healing is sure to be difficult, yet the Lebanese people have proved their resilience time and time again.