Weeks of smoldering fires have caused Beirut’s port grain silos to partially collapse on Sunday, two years after being damaged in a warehouse explosion that took 218 lives.
The Lebanese military joined firefighters to battle the blaze, after grain fermentation led to the conflagration, releasing fumes into nearby cities. Officials last week ordered nearby residents to remain indoors in well-ventilated rooms.
The silo’s sudden collapse created a massive cloud of smoke and debris, an echo of the warehouse explosions in August 2020 that ignited an estimated 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate.
The ammonium-nitrate disaster reportedly occurred due to the chemical compound being stored unsafely at the port since 2013.
In addition to killing hundreds, the 2020 blast injured more than 7,500 people, leaving 300,000 homeless and creating $15 billion in property damage.
The port was nearly devastated except for several grain silos that remained standing, though not functional, until Sunday’s unfortunate collapse.
No injuries have been reported this week but witnesses reflected on the earlier event.
“It was the same feeling as when the blast happened; we remembered the explosion. A few big pieces fell and my son got scared when he saw it,” nearby resident, Tarek Hussein, told reporters. Hussein was grocery shopping at the time of the collapse.
Lebanese officials warned of a possible collapse last week after the northern portion of the silo buildings began tilting at an accelerated rate.
The government had wanted to pull down the silos, while citizens had called for their preservation as as a memorial to the 2020 blast. To many, the silos symbolize the corruption, as well as the bad governance by a ruling elite, which has led the country toward financial collapse.
Some reportedly believe the silos were allowed to burn in order to wipe out any memory of the earlier explosion.