Thousands of protestors mark two years since Beirut blast

i24NEWS - Reuters

3 min read
Relatives of victims of the deadly 2020 Beirut port explosion hold portraits of loved ones and an altered Lebanese flag to mark the second anniversary of the massive blast, outside the port of Beirut, Lebanon, on August 4, 2022.
AP Photo/Hassan AmmarRelatives of victims of the deadly 2020 Beirut port explosion hold portraits of loved ones and an altered Lebanese flag to mark the second anniversary of the massive blast, outside the port of Beirut, Lebanon, on August 4, 2022.

'What happened was not a mistake, it was a massacre. It destroyed an entire city'

Marking two years since the cataclysmic explosion at the Beirut port, thousands of protestors marched in the Lebanese capital on Thursday, with chants denouncing the government’s failure to uncover the truth behind the blast.

In a grim reminder of the disaster, several grain silos that were left heavily damaged by the blast collapsed on Thursday, days after a similar incident.

The concrete silos cracked and fell after burning for several weeks. Protesters covered their mouths in disbelief.

"Seeing the smoke coming out triggers a very bad memory. It was the same smoke coming from the silos up to the sky," said Samer al-Khoury.

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The 2020 blast damaged swathes of the city on August 4, leaving at least 220 people dead.

One of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history, it was caused by massive stores of ammonium nitrate at the port neglected since 2013.

"What happened was not a mistake, it was a massacre. It destroyed an entire city,” said protestor Stephanie Moukheiber.

Several senior officials were accused of responsibility but, to date, none have been held accountable – symptomatic, critics say, of a governing elite hamstrung by corruption and on whose watch Lebanon descended into a political and economic crisis.

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An investigation into the blast has been stalled for more than six months.

Shiite Hezbollah and its ally Amal are the main opponents of the probe, accusing the judge leading it of bias after he charged senior Amal Movement figures.

Families of victims pressed the UN Human Rights Council to establish an international inquiry.

"The scars are still there. Internally, externally," said Omar Jheir, the owner of a coffee shop in Beirut heavily damaged in the explosion.

"Especially (since) we haven't seen justice yet."

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