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Defense & Security Middle East & North Africa Security Social Issues

Beirut Bombing Leaves City in Shambles

As many as 300,000 people that once lived in the capital are now homeless or injured and are being forced to take shelter in homes of strangers or nearby hospitals, which are barely being held up. Considering the increasing rate of COVID-19 infections, Lebanese first responders worry of the compounding impact of devastation, which is expected to cost around $15 billion in repairs.

Lebanon has long been referred to as the Paris of the Middle East, a small yet comfortable country that welcomes all visitors and residents into their warm culture and way of  life. The once glamorous and inviting region is now left in shambles due to a devastating explosion on August 4, 2020. 

As of August 11, the 1,500 tons explosion in the Port of Beirut killed at least 200 people and injured approximately 5,000 others. Whatever the precise charge size, this is unquestionably one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history; far bigger than any conventional weapon, claims Andy Tyas, a Professor on blast protection engineering. This is something that globally, has not been seen in decades. No country this small has yet to deal with such a devastating tragedy in addition to being on the brink of corruption. With domestic unrest and a deteriorating government, the people of Lebanon have instituted a Lebanese Revolution. 

As many as 300,000 people that once lived in the capital are now homeless or injured and are being forced to take shelter in homes of strangers or nearby hospitals, which are barely being held up. Considering the increasing rate of COVID-19 infections, Lebanese first responders worry of the compounding impact of devastation, which is expected to cost around $15 billion in repairs. Dr. Firas Abiad, director general of Rafik Hariri University Hospital, expects a soaring increase in cases due to people not following social distance regulations on the streets and overcrowding of blood donation centers. This will gravely affect those who were injured and do not have the means to  receive necessary medical attention and care, leaving them to suffer physically and emotionally post-explosion. 

“Whatever the precise charge size, this is unquestionably one of the largest non-nuclear  explosions in history, far bigger than any conventional weapon.” 

Six days after the Port explosion, the Lebanese government resigned. For the past year, a growing segment of the population has lost faith in the government. The country of Lebanon has been at an internal war with its government. A series of protests and revolts have led to what now can be considered a Lebanese Revolution. The country now faces financial ruin, much of which can be attributed to systematic corruption and graft. Because of this, it is difficult to answer the question of who is to blame for the explosion, and whether or not it could have been avoided. Director General of Lebanese Customs, Badri Daher “…requested that it [ammonium nitrate] be re-exported but that did not happen.” Consequently, a number of Lebanese citizens took their anger and sadness to the streets of Downtown Beirut and began protesting the mismanagement and corruption.  

The Port of Beirut handled approximately 80% of Lebanon’s food and medical imports, which means getting supplies to further combat the combined effects of COVID-19 as well as the explosion will be more difficult than ever. Imports will now have to come through a smaller port just 30 miles north in Tripoli, making accessible supplies less immediate for use.  

With a government that is no longer functioning, the people of Lebanon have taken power into their own hands, along with the help of neighboring countries to restore Lebanon. What once was an internal war to battle corruption and dysfunction has now turned into a complete period of  reconstruction – both internally and externally.  

Domestic and international fears have risen that believe Lebanon could become a failed state and won’t be able to maintain its country as a whole.  With virtually no government, it is up to the people themselves to rebuild an entire country. The explosion has caught the attention of the world, bringing with it a spotlight that now shines over Lebanon’s many problems and volatility. After a long history of political tensions, Lebanon lies on a weak foundation to support its people. With the subsequent prospect of state collapse and strife that is likely to follow, it is up to regional actors and the international community to come to the aid of Lebanon and help prevent a dire situation from becoming far worse.

By Lana Dakwar

Lana is currently a senior at UCLA majoring in Political Science with the intent of Pre-Law. She hopes to attend Law School in the future and focus her practice in the Middle East.

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