August 4 marks the first anniversary of the incident that devastated the economic heart of the Lebanese capital. The inquiries ended with nothing. Politicians and institutional figures wave “immunity” to avoid interrogation. Father Abboud: “We have lost everything, but not our faith. We have experienced bloodshed and we will overcome this too”.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – One year on, the twin explosion at the port of Beirut “is still an open wound”, while citizens are still “waiting for justice, to know the names of those responsible for this incident”. This is what the president of Caritas Lebanon, Fr. Michel Abboud, tells AsiaNews, describing “a situation that is still very critical” in “various aspects” and linked in two ways “to the economic condition of the nation” and the political, social and institutional crisis.
“We see so much confusion,” adds the priest, “because when the judiciary summons politicians or members of institutions to ask questions and question them, most refuse and this does not contribute to establishing a climate of trust.”
12 months on, explains Fr. Abboud, the greatest difficulties are found under the “psychological” profile, with many families “in need of support, and as Caritas we immediately took action: many people who were not seen before, now come to ask for help for their families, for their children”. Before the accident “there was no widespread recourse to psychological support, to therapy and this is a very strong need” that emerged in the months following the explosion. Our experts, he continues, “are strengthening the various projects with the collaboration of doctors and health workers. This is flanked by the distribution of food, because the economic problem has pushed many families to poverty.
The devastation caused by the double explosion, considered the worst disaster in peacetime and equal to an earthquake of magnitude 4.5, are witnessed by the numbers: 214 victims, 6,500 injured and 300 thousand people left homeless. About 70 thousand Lebanese have lost their jobs due to causes related to the deflagration; 73 thousand apartments have been damaged, 9,200 buildings, 163 schools and educational centers have been affected, along with 106 health facilities, including six hospitals and 20 clinics. To date there are no ascertained responsible or convicted defendants linked to the incident, while the Country of the Cedars at 359 days after the event is still without a government.
Analysts and experts define the explosion one of the biggest and most powerful among the non-nuclear ones, so much to devastate a large part of the port and several areas of the capital. The official version speaks of an explosion caused by a fire in a warehouse in which was crammed – at least six years – a large stock of ammonium nitrate. A few hours after the incident, Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud described an “apocalyptic situation”.
The investigation has so far produced no significant results, and in a nation where political assassinations and high-profile attacks go unpunished, many fear it will have no effect. Several members of the government, parliament and key security agencies have avoided questioning using so-called “immunity” clauses in the Constitution.
The president of Caritas continues: “The port was a primary economic source for the government and a resource for the country, for the many people who worked there, but with the explosion everything stopped. A very hard blow” with obvious repercussions also from a social and human point of view: “Many works and construction sites have stopped, many houses have been emptied, many do not want to renovate their homes and return because they feel the precariousness of the situation, others have already left Lebanon. We have to find some certainties”.
Faced with an emergency that continues, the Christian charity is responding by expanding the distribution of food, personal hygiene kits essential at the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, medical care and psychotherapy, funding for the reconstruction of housing. And again, medical care for indigent people who can not go to hospitals, now increasingly saturated and struggling with a crisis in the supply of medicines or private clinics with unaffordable prices for the vast majority. Caritas, says the president, has so far contributed “to the renovation of 1,500 houses, but now we must continue and resources are needed.
In this critical context, concludes Fr. Abboud, “the value of faith has emerged even stronger: we have lost everything, homes, schools, families, personal property. They have taken everything from us, but they have not succeeded in taking away our faith, which remains firm. This is not the first time Lebanon has experienced a crisis, we have overcome wars and deaths, we have experience of blood and we will overcome this one too.”