Grain silo in Beirut port collapses after weeks of fire

Grain silo in Beirut port collapses after weeks of fire

Nearly two years after the serious explosion in the port of Beirut, a grain silo that had been burning for weeks collapsed there. The media reported on Sunday a cloud of dust and smoke that then rose. Authorities blamed the fire on fermented grain at the damaged storage facility, which caught fire in the summer heat.

Economy Minister Amin Salam said in mid-July that a solution to the fire was in the works. The area was isolated. Video footage showed a section of the silo collapsing, debris falling to the ground and a cloud of dust. The silo was particularly hit by the explosion in the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020. Parts of the site have not been rebuilt to this day. The detonation occurred because ammonium nitrate fertilizer stored without protective measures had ignited.

- © REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

© Portal/Mohamed Azakir

The tall silo towers, on the other hand, shielded much of western Beirut from the effects of the blast. As a result of the accident, more than 200 people died and more than 6,500 were injured. The investigation into the circumstances of the accident was hampered for political reasons in the first few weeks. Relatives of victims and non-governmental organizations accuse the authorities of systematically hiding their possible joint responsibility.

Lebanon’s interim prime minister Najib Mikati had already warned last Wednesday that damaged silos could collapse. The army must prepare for a collapse; Workers, civil defense officials and firefighters were instructed to keep a safe distance from the towers. Citizens must wear respirators around silos in case of collapse.

Two weeks before the partial collapse, a fire broke out in the silos after grain stored there ignited, officials said, as a result of fermentation processes favored by the summer heat. According to Mikati, about 3,000 tons of wheat and corn were still stored in the towers, but according to official information they could not be removed because that would have accelerated the collapse.

In April, the Lebanese government ordered the remains of the silo to be demolished. However, work has come to a halt – among other things because relatives of those who died in the August 2020 blast called for the ruins to be preserved as a place of remembrance.

The silos at the port of Beirut had a storage capacity of over 100,000 tons before the explosion. After the accident, its 48-meter tall remains were a kind of memorial to the explosion. (apa/Portal/afp)