BEIRUT (AP) — Another large section of Beirut Port’s ruined bunkers collapsed in a cloud of dust Tuesday morning. No injuries were reported — the area had long since been evacuated — but the collapse was another painful reminder of the horrific explosion in August 2020.
As a result of the collapse, the southern part of the silos stood next to a pile of charred ruins. The North Block had already been slowly toppling since the first explosion two years ago, but quickly deteriorated after it caught fire over a month ago due to fermenting grain.
The 50-year-old bunkers, 48 meters (157 ft) high, withstood the force of the blast on August 4, 2020, effectively shielding west Beirut from the blast, which killed more than 200 people and injured and severely damaged more than 6,000. whole blocks.
Emmanuel Durand, a French civil engineer who volunteered as part of a government-commissioned panel of experts, told The Associated Press that the rate of the slope accelerated overnight Monday, hours before the collapse.
“There was a very sharp acceleration, which was expected,” Durand explained. “When that happens, you know it’s going to happen.”
The country’s interim environment minister, Nasser Yassin, told Lebanese television that the government will now consider how to secure the southern block. He urged residents near the port to wear masks and said experts would conduct air quality tests.
In April, the Lebanese government decided to demolish the bunkers, but suspended the decision after protests by the families of the blast victims and survivors. They claim that the bunkers may contain evidence useful to judicial investigationand that it should stand as a monument to the tragedy of 2020.
In July a a fire broke out in the northern block of silos due to fermentation of grain. Firefighters and Lebanese army soldiers were unable to extinguish it, and it smoldered for more than a month. Officials warned that the silo could collapse, but feared risking the lives of firefighters and soldiers who tried to get too close to put out the fire or drop containers of water from helicopters.
Survivors of the explosion and residents near the port told the AP that watching the fire from their homes and offices was like survive the trauma of the explosion at the portwhich began with a warehouse fire next to silos containing hundreds of tons of explosive ammonium nitrate that had been improperly stored there for years.
The Ministry of Environment and Health in late July issued instructions to residents living near the port to stay indoors with good ventilation.
Last month, Durand told the AP that a grain fire accelerated the rate at which the crushed silage piled up and caused permanent damage to its weak concrete foundation.
Since then, the structure has been rapidly falling apart. At the end of July, part of the northern block fell for the first time. A few days later, on the second anniversary of the Beirut port bombing, about a fourth of the structure collapsed. On Sunday, the fire spread to large areas of silage.
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