Beirut pits at the heart of the debate over remembering the port bombing

Beirut pits at the heart of the debate over remembering the port bombing

BEIRUT (AP) – Kazan Hasruti spent most of his life working in pits in the port of Beirut, unloading grain exports to feed the country despite fighting around him during the 1975-90 civil war.

Decades later, he collapsed under the same pits, their superior cement structure by the force of the explosion at the port on August 4, When 2,750 tons of improperly stored ammonium nitrates were ignited, was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history.

In a terrible moment, An explosion of power destroyed Beirut. More than 200 have died and horror and disaster are haunting survivors.

Hasruti’s son, Eli, wants justice for his father, and considers the pits to be a “symbol of shame” and a reminder of the corruption and negligence of politicians that many Lebanese are the cause of tragedy.

A government-appointed study following the disaster says 50-year-old pits could collapse and be demolished at any time, sparking an emotional debate among city residents about how to preserve the memory of the tragedy.

In Lebanon, where the culture of impunity has long existed, the debate is shrouded in suspicion, with those behind the violent attacks, bombings and massacres rarely being brought to justice.

Sarah Jaffer believes the government wants to clear the mess and move forward as if nothing had happened. “This is a reminder of what they did,” said architect Jaffer, whose apartment was destroyed in the blast.

“I never wanted to lose the anger I had,” he said.

A few days after the catastrophic eruption, Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Daib resigned amid mounting public outrage., Says the country’s local corruption is “bigger than the state”.

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The massive 48-meter-high eruption absorbed most of the impact of the blast, effectively protecting the western part of the city from the bombing, damaging or completely destroying thousands of buildings.

The investigation into how such large hazardous chemicals were badly stored for years under the nose of the Port Authority and the broader political leadership has dragged on. The concern of rights groups and families is that this is a ploy to protect senior officials, none of whom have yet been detained or charged with any wrongdoing.

For more than four months, rotten wheat drips from the shredded but still standing pit, which stores up to 85% of Lebanon’s grain. Pigeons and rodents have found their home among the rubble.

Emmanuel Durant, a French civil engineer who volunteered for a team of government-appointed experts, spent several weeks using a laser scanner to collect digital data to analyze the structure of the pits after the eruption.

Although they appear to be structurally sound from a distance, the pits are tilted and their foundation is broken, causing vertical cracks in two of them. They could collapse at any time, though it is impossible to calculate when, Durand said.

“Like an egg, the pits are very strong as long as there is integrity,” Durand said. “Now if the shell of the egg is slightly broken, it will be very weak and you will have no difficulty in crushing the egg.”

The military plans to demolish the pits with concrete and re-crushing equipment, Durand said. Kuwait, which funded the construction of the pits in the 1970s, has offered to donate to rebuild them.

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Fodi Aboud, a former tourism minister and member of the Freedom Patriotic Movement, the largest Christian party, came up with a proposal to turn the port and pits into a “tourist attraction” that would compete with the Roman ruins at Balbec.

The families of the victims protested, saying it was a heartless commercialization of the place where many had died.

“In their dreams!” Gilbert Karan, 27-year-old fiance, firefighter Sahar Fares, died in a fire shortly before the explosion. “They will not profit the martyrs.”

Jonathan Dakar, a journalist with the independent online media platform Megaphone, said Abbott’s words were in line with party leader Zebran Basil’s comments that the explosion could gain a “great opportunity” to gain international support for Lebanon’s money. Built government.

“These words are not an accident” and underestimate the sadness of what happened, Dagger said.

There are concerns that the port bombing could be carried out in the same way as Lebanon’s 15-year civil war.

War is not taught in school books. There is no memorial to the 17,000 people who went missing from the war. A general amnesty allowed post-war and militant leaders to dominate the country’s post-war politics. After the war, the city of Beirut was rapidly rebuilt, a high-profile institutional center that emerged from ruins and disasters.

Architect Jaffer says the pushback against pit demolition comes from the fear that a similar scene based on the concept of “amnesia” – if you haven’t seen it, it’s not – was designed on August 4th. Blast.

According to Lebanese architect Carlos Mbarak, the cut pits must be in place, and their sheer size is always an echo of the biggest explosion.

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“There’s something very powerful about pits,” he said. “They are now part of people’s collective memory.”

Mbarak designed a memorial park at the site, with the pits as a focal point, a memorial ring in the abyss, a museum and a green space. Its purpose is to honor the victims and survivors, and to capture a sense of solidarity among Lebanese in the aftermath of the explosion. He is now trying to find ways to finance it.

Both Eli Hasruti’s father and grandfather have worked in the pits since they were built.

His father, 59-year-old Casson, called home 40 minutes before the explosion, told his wife that a fresh grain would keep him there late, and asked him to send his favorite pillow and bedsheets to work overnight.

His remains were found 14 days later, at the bottom of the pits.

Pits “should be a witness to corruption, so we can learn,” Hasruti said. “Something has to change.”

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