Part of blast-damaged Beirut silos collapse on 2nd anniversary of port explosion

No injuries reported as section of structure gives way an hour before march to commemorate lives lost in 2020 blast

Heavy dust rises as part of the grain silos in the port of Beirut collapse on the 2nd anniversary of a deadly blast which killed over 200 people, August 4, 2022. (Ibrahim Amro/AFP)
Heavy dust rises as part of the grain silos in the port of Beirut collapse on the 2nd anniversary of a deadly blast which killed over 200 people, August 4, 2022. (Ibrahim Amro/AFP)

A large section of Beirut’s giant port grain silos, shredded by a massive explosion two years ago, collapsed on Thursday as hundreds marched in Beirut to mark the second anniversary of the blast that killed scores.

The northern block of the silos consisting of four towers has been slowly tilting for days and collapsed, causing a huge cloud of dust that covered the structure that shielded Beirut’s western neighborhoods when the blast occurred on August 4, 2020, killing nearly 220 people, injuring over 6,000 and causing damage worth billions of dollars.

Thursday’s collapse of roughly a quarter of the structure occurred an hour before hundreds of people were to gather outside the facility to mark the 2nd anniversary of the blast. Authorities evacuated parts of the port earlier this week — after an initial section of the silos collapsed on Sunday — as a precautionary measure and there was no indication that anyone was hurt.

The 50-year-old, 48-meter (157 feet) tall silos had withstood the force of the explosion two years ago that destroyed much of the port.

The government ordered the silos’ demolition in April, but this has been suspended, partially because of objections from victims’ relatives who want them preserved as a memorial.

“The silos are our memory,” said Wafaa Zaher, a 60-year-old whose son died at the port during the explosion.

“We are waiting for the truth to cool our hearts,” she said from the protest.

The anniversary came amid calls for an international investigation into one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history. The domestic investigation has been stalled since December following legal challenges by charged and accused officials against the judge leading the investigation.

Hundreds of people, including families of the victims, marched from three locations in Beirut toward the main road outside the port to mark the blast that occurred at 6:07 p.m. two years ago Thursday. Some carried white coffins with names of some of the victims while others carried gallows demanding punishment for those responsible.

“Two years later the pain is still the same,” said one of the family members who lost his brother.

Two years after the explosions, none of the top politicians have apologized to the Lebanese and the government called for a day of mourning leading many businesses to close.

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