Published On: Mon, Aug 1st, 2022

Beirut grain silo falls in partial collapse nearly 2 years after port explosion

A part of the grain silos damaged in the 2020 Beirut Port explosion collapsed Sunday, just days shy of the two-year anniversary of the warehouse blast.

Lebanon’s National News Agency confirmed the silo’s partial collapse Sunday as videos of the damage appeared to circulate online. A Reuters witness reported seeing a dust cloud and what appeared to be smoke after the silo came down.

The silos have been on fire for weeks prior to Sunday’s collapse, burning orange as many feared the damaged structures would eventually fall.

The grain silos at the port of Beirut partially collapsed on July 31, 2022.
The grain silos at the port of Beirut partially collapsed on July 31, 2022.Anwar Amro / AFP – Getty Images

“It was the same feeling as when the blast happened, we remembered the explosion,” said Tarek Hussein, a resident of nearby Karantina area, who was out buying groceries with his son when the collapse happened.

“A few big pieces fell and my son got scared when he saw it,” he said.

The British Embassy in Lebanon sent a tweet following the collapse, asking anyone indoors to close their windows and doors.

“If outdoors, wear a KN95 mask until reaching nearest closed space,” the embassy warned.

Lebanon’s Ministry of Public Health told residents Sunday that the areas around the silos may need to be evacuated following an explosion due to “volatile dust” in the air. The government also asked that residents go inside, shut all windows or doors, and run air conditioning. Residents and businesses were advised to spray down balconies with water and wipe surfaces down while wearing a KN95 mask to “prevent the re-volatilization of the deposited dust.”

Thursday will mark two-years exactly since the warehouse explosion rocked the country, killing more than 200 people. The Beirut blast has been attributed to an estimated at 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that combusted after six years being in the port, without proper storage conditions taken for the volatile chemicals.

The silos remained visibly damaged in the two years since the explosion.

Officials have said the fire burning at the silos was difficult to extinguish and had occurred naturally as a result of left-over wheat fermenting and igniting.

Despite the years since the port explosion and the Lebanese government’s initial promise of justice, there has not been anyone held accountable as the country’s probe into the negligent storage of the chemicals.

Divina Abojaoude, an engineer and member of a committee representing the families of victims, residents and experts, said the silos did not have to fall.

“The fire was natural and sped things up. If the government wanted to, they could have contained the fire and reduced it, but we have suspicions they wanted the silos to collapse,” Abojaoude said.

Fadi Hussein, a Karantina resident, said he believed the collapse was intentional to remove “any trace of Aug. 4.”

“We are not worried for ourselves, but for our children, from the pollution,” resulting from the silos’ collapse, he said, noting that power cuts in the country meant he was unable to even turn on a fan at home to reduce the impact of the dust.  

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