Advertisement Close

A Year After Beirut's Horrible Explosion : Has Anything Changed?

posted on: Aug 4, 2021

Financial Times

By Noura Abou Hamze / Arab America Contributing Writer

August 4, 2020 Memory

On August 4, 2020, images out of Beirut shocked the world. Hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate exploded in the capital’s port, destroying most of the city and leaving behind hundreds of victims, thousands of injured, and hundreds of thousands of people displaced. More specifically, it wounded 7,000 people, of whom at least 150 acquired a physical disability. Similarly, it caused untold psychological harm; and damaged 77,000 apartments, displacing over 300,000 people. 

The cargo of ammonium nitrate had entered Beirut’s port on a Moldovan-flagged ship, the Rhesus, in November 2013. It had been offloaded into hangar 12 in Beirut’s port on October 23 and 24, 2014.

Therefore, a year after the Beirut port blast, the reaction to the explosion is very clear!  It’s crucial to hold criminals accountable and end a political era that has been unstable since the Lebanese uprisings began in October 2019. Lebanon will someday reach the truth.

The scale, magnitude, and reverberations of the Beirut blast trauma make that assumption inevitable. When so much has been lost, the risk of losing that little becomes inconsequential. As Lebanon approaches the one-year “anniversary” of the Beirut port blast, the only thing that is sure is that the feelings of loss, trauma, and anger will eventually erupt in the absence of real and systemic accountability.

Picture by Noura Abou Hamze / Mar Mikhael Lebanon

A Nightmare

This blast was a nightmare.  Anyone walked the streets of Beirut to help after the explosion saw buildings on the floor, people screaming, children lost and shocked, a black sky, blood everywhere all over the walls, all those scenes were enough for everyone to live in a shocking reality.

The scenes that will continue to unfold on the streets of Beirut will set the stage and tone for the next phase of confrontation with the political establishment. It is time to confront them. It is time to know all the truth behind who did this to the people of Lebanon.

Have they been informed before?

Evidence indicates that many of Lebanon’s senior leaders were informed of the risks posed by the ammonium nitrate and failed to take the necessary actions and precautions to save Lebanon and its citizens. Not only that, but they failed to domestically investigate the blast.

During this year, a series of procedural and systematic flaws in the domestic investigation has rendered it incapable of credibly delivering justice. Those flaws include a lack of judicial independence, immunity for high-level political officials, and a lack of fair trial standards.

Has anything really changed?

Lebanon’s situation got worse, nothing has changed. The trauma and fear and anger have increased among the citizens. The only thing that is positive is that all the people are now more aware of the consequences that happened and that their lives are invaluable and must be treated accordingly. Nothing has improved since last year. The currency has highly deteriorated. Lebanon is days away from a “social explosion,” according to the country’s prime minister. World Bank has described the situation as one of the worst economic depressions in modern history. The country’s currency has lost more than 90% of its value, unemployment has skyrocketed, and fuel prices have soared.

Because of the hyperinflation and a lack of dollars to pay for imports, the majority of Lebanon’s six million people are struggling to find food, medicine, fuel, electricity, and clean water. According to a recent United Nations survey, 77% of households do not have money to buy food. Since the fall of 2019, the Lebanese pound, which has been pegged at about 1,500 to the dollar since 1997, has dropped 15-fold in value on the black market.

Despite the currency collapse and shortages of basic necessities, Lebanon’s sectarian leaders can’t agree on forming a new government because they’re still arguing over control of various ministries and state resources.

This explosion has been one of the worst things Lebanon has ever experience. To live through all this suffering, the Lebanese people are truly courageous. They believe that Lebanon will rise again better than ever, and that truth and justice will prevail.    

Check out Arab America’s blog here!