Silos in the port of Beirut hit by the explosion are at risk of collapsing: Prime Minister

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Beirut (AFP) – Grain silos in the blast-hit port of Beirut are at risk of collapsing after a fire this month, Lebanon’s acting prime minister said on Wednesday, a week before the second anniversary of the blast.

“The northern silo cluster is now at risk of falling,” Najib Mikati said in a statement that the silos still held thousands of tons of wheat and corn.

The warning comes two weeks after a fire broke out at the port’s northern silos due to the fermentation of remaining grain stocks and soaring summer temperatures.

The blaze has reignited trauma among Lebanese as they prepare to mark the anniversary of the devastating explosion that killed more than 200 people and injured more than 6,500 on August 4, 2020.

It was caused by the burning of a haphazard stockpile of ammonium nitrate fertilizer.

Mikati asked the military to prepare for the partial collapse of the silos and warned workers, civil defense personnel and firefighters to keep a safe distance from the site.

Authorities were unable to unload about 3,000 tonnes of wheat and corn stuck in the silos because it could hasten their collapse, the statement said.

The environment and health ministries have advised the public to evacuate the port area and use masks near silos in case they collapse.

They also warned residents in the neighborhood to close their doors and windows for 24 hours.

Once with a capacity of over 100,000 tons, a towering remnant of the 48-meter (157-foot) high silos has become emblematic of the catastrophic port explosion.

In April, the government ordered their demolition for security reasons, but this decision has since been suspended due to objections, including from relatives of victims of the explosion who want the silos to be preserved as memorial site.

The Lebanese investigation into the explosion has been met with systematic and blatant political obstruction from day one.

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