09/11/2020, 12.02
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Fire extinguished. Another investigation opened

by Pierre Balanian

According to the official version, the fire was caused by workers welding a hangar roof. It is the same version given for the August 4 explosions. The doubts of the population and of Walid Joumblatt. Yesterday people in shock and crying, trembling with fear, fled the city. The firefighters, Lebanese and Palestinian, heroes of the day.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - The fire that broke out yesterday in the port, 37 days after the disastrous explosions of 4 August, caused no casualties, apart from one person who was hospitalized for respiratory distress. However, the smoke covered the entire sky of the capital making the air unbreathable.

Residents were advised to plug the windows and avoid letting in the poisonous air that is a carrier of cancer and lung problems. "Close the windows and wear masks even at home" was the advice of experts on TV and on social networks. But the sultry heat of these days - unknown for decades in this part of Asia, which is causing forest fires in Lebanon, Israel and Syria – prohibits closed windows. Moreover, due to lack of electricity, it is impossible to use air conditioning or fans.

The fire seems to have started accidentally, caused by workers welding the roof of a hangar. This is curious because it is the same official version in the inquiry into the cause of the explosions more than a month ago).

The hangar from which the fire started is rented by a company called BCC Logistics and served as a warehouse for goods belonging to the Red Cross and Unifil, the UN peacekeepers. According to the Red Cross there were mainly foodstuffs.

But in a photo of the hangar before the fire (photo 3), posted to social media, cardboard boxes can be seen on the ground, next to shelves full of tires. Workers at the port say there were also cosmetic products. The director of the Lebanese Red Cross, George Kettane, reassured the population by saying that the oils burned by the "sparks from welding" were cooking oils.

The official version is far from reassuring and convinces little: two dramas in just over a month caused by "incompetent welders", by "carelessness" of the authorities ... This time on social media posts the military is being directly accused give that under the state of emergency, it is in charge of security in the port for over a month. "The army was unable to protect two square kilometers!", We read on social media.

Walid Jumblatt, head of the Lebanese Druze and general secretary of the Socialist Party in a tweet made it clear that he believes it is an arson attack with the aim of destroying evidence of real responsibility in the August blasts: "they were afraid of a brave, conscientious (judge of) investigation an honest and lively official. And there are many in this administration who are] criminals, so they set the evidence on fire”.

Maya Diab, a Lebanese singer who is preparing to give a charity concert in a few days on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the explosions is of the same opinion. President Michel Aoun also left the doors open to all hypotheses.

The official version tries to find extenuating circumstances and justifications: following the explosions, chaos reigns in the port; the managers aware of the contents of the hangars are either removed or under investigation.

Yesterday evening the Supreme Defence Council chaired by Aoun met; it was decided to set up yet another “Commission to organize and supervise the work in progress at the port to avoid similar incidents”.

Information leaked in the press reveals the existence in the port of flammable material containing acids, gasoline, phosphoric acid, batteries and other dangerous material. the Supreme Defence Council has decided to contact the owners of these goods and find a solution.

For the second time and fortunately, the eastern part of the port - where 70% of imports and exports take place - remained unharmed. Yesterday people experienced terror again: people in shock cried, trembled with fear, fled the city: too many coincidences, too many catastrophes; life and hope are impossible. Even the port workers fled the place. The only heroes of the day were the firefighters and civil protection agents. And once again, the Lebanese were helped by their colleagues from the Palestinian refugee camps.

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