Lebanese man severely injured in Beirut port blast dies

45-year-old Abbas Mazloum suffered spine and head wounds while working at a restaurant near explosion site last August; official toll rises to at least 216

The scene the day after an explosion hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, August 5, 2020. (Bilal Hussein/AP)
The scene the day after an explosion hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, August 5, 2020. (Bilal Hussein/AP)

BEIRUT (AP) — A Lebanese man who was critically injured in the massive explosion at Beirut’s port last year died Wednesday nearly 15 months after the blast, his cousin said.

Abbas Mazloum was at work at a restaurant near the port when the blast occurred in August last year, throwing him into a wall. He suffered severe injuries to his spine and a head wound that required 45 stitches.

The 45-year-old father of five had been paralyzed and mostly bed-ridden since the blast. Last month, he underwent a back operation, and more recently he got sick and developed a fever. That led to his death on Wednesday morning in his hometown of Brital in eastern Lebanon, his cousin Noura Mazloum told The Associated Press.

“His immunity had become so weak since the explosion,” Mazloum said, adding that her cousin was laid to rest in Brital’s cemetery Wednesday afternoon.

Mazloum’s death brings to at least 216 the number of people killed by the blast, according to official records. The explosion also injured some 6,000 people, many of them from broken glass, flying objects, and debris.

On Aug. 4, 2020, hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive material used in fertilizers, ignited after a massive fire at the port. It later emerged that the nitrate had been improperly stored in a port warehouse for years, and that senior political and security officials knew of its existence and did nothing about it.

More than a year later, no one has been held to account for the explosion. The lead judge investigating the blast had to suspend his work in the case at least three times so far, amid legal challenges from politicians and a growing campaign by Lebanon’s political class against him.

Judge Tarek Bitar is the second judge to lead the complicated probe. His predecessor was removed following similar legal challenges by senior officials he had accused of negligence that led to the blast.

Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Hassan Diab filed a lawsuit on Wednesday saying that Bitar does not have the jurisdiction to prosecute him. The move by Diab, who was charged by Bitar earlier, came a day before the former prime minister was supposed to be questioned by the judge although he was not likely to show up.

Politicians opposed to Bitar, say that officials holding the top posts in the country as well as ministers and legislators should be questioned and tried by a special tribunal for them.

Smoke rises after an explosion the day before at the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, August 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

A protest organized by the Hezbollah terror group and its allies against Bitar earlier this month led to the worst clashes in the capital in years leaving seven people dead and dozens wounded.

In an interview with the daily An-Nahar on the first anniversary of the blast, Abbas Mazloum said he expected there will be no justice in the case. He referred to many other explosions in Lebanon over the past decades that went unpunished.

When asked if he has faith in Lebanon, Mazloum said: “Not at all.”

“I lost everything in my life. I am still breathing,” Mazloum said in the video recorded with An-Nahar. “If we get justice, I will get my rights. They are my children’s rights.”

In September, a 35-year-old man died at his family’s home in Beirut after suffering severe injuries in the blast.

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