Part of the damaged grain silos in the 2020 Beirut port explosion collapsed Sunday, days before the second anniversary of the warehouse explosion.
The Lebanese National News Agency confirmed the partial collapse of the silo on Sunday as videos of the damage appeared to circulate online. A Reuters witness reported seeing a cloud of dust and what appeared to be smoke after the silo fell.
The silos were on fire for weeks before Sunday’s collapse, burning orange as many feared the damaged structures would eventually fall.
“It was the same feeling as when the explosion happened, we remembered the explosion,” said Tarek Hussein, a resident of the nearby Karantina region, who was shopping with his son when the collapse has occurred.
“Some big pieces fell off and my son got scared when he saw it,” he said.
The British Embassy in Lebanon tweeted following the collapseasking anyone inside to close their windows and doors.
“If you are outside, wear a KN95 mask until you reach the nearest enclosed space,” the embassy warned.
Lebanese Ministry of Public Health told residents on 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 residents to come in, close any windows or doors and turn on the air conditioning. Residents and businesses have been advised to spray balconies with water and wipe down surfaces while wearing a KN95 mask to “prevent revolatilization of deposited dust”.
Thursday will mark exactly two years since the warehouse explosion rocked the country, killing more than 200 people. The Beirut explosion was attributed to around 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that burned after six years in the port, without proper storage conditions for volatile chemicals.
The silos remained visibly damaged in the two years following the explosion.
Officials said the fire burning in the silos was difficult to extinguish and occurred naturally due to fermentation and ignition of leftover wheat.
Despite the years that have passed since the port explosion and the Lebanese government’s initial promise of justice, no one has been held accountable for the country’s investigation into the careless storage of chemicals.
Divina Abojaoude, an engineer and member of a committee representing victims’ families, residents and experts, said the silos did not have to fall.
“The fire was natural and sped things up. Had the government wanted to, they could have contained the fire and reduced it, but we suspect they wanted the silos to collapse,” Abojaoude said.
Fadi Hussein, a resident of Karantina, said he believed the collapse was intentional to remove “every trace of August 4”.
“We are not worried for ourselves, but for our children, because of the pollution,” resulting from the collapse of the silos, he said, noting that power cuts in the country prevented him even turn on a fan at home to reduce the impact of dust.