Beirut marks second anniversary of explosion

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Aug. 4 (UPI) — Crowds gathered in Beirut on Thursday to commemorate the second anniversary of an explosion that left more than 200 people dead and 6,000 injured.

Two years later, neighborhoods in the eastern part of the Lebanese capital are still badly damaged. What remains of the giant wheat silos near the explosion site was on fire again Thursday.

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The Lebanese government backtracked on a plan to demolish the remnants of the silos earlier this year after pressure from families that view the remains as a memorial. Parts of the silos eventually collapsed.

The investigation into why 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, stored for seven years at the Port of Beirut before igniting, has stalled. Nobody has been held accountable, angering families of the victims.

“After two years, we still have nothing. I am very, very angry and very frustrated. We have to continue our lives. But frankly speaking, it’s extremely hard,” Paul Naggear, who lost his 3-year-old daughter in the explosion, told CBC News in an interview Thursday.

“You feel like you’re dying every day because you’re not progressing and there’s no accountability. Can you imagine?”

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In 2021, the FBI concluded that only a fifth of the original shipment of ammonium nitrate unloaded in 2013 blew up at the port, reinforcing suspicion over what exactly happened to the rest of it.

A year following one of the biggest industrial disasters in modern history, investigative judge Tarek Bitar’s requests to lift immunity and question high-level political officials, including lawmakers and former ministers, were rejected or delayed by parliament and other authorities.

Shortly before the one-year anniversary, Amnesty International accused Lebanese authorities of repeatedly hampering the course of investigation, blocking and stalling justice “at every turn” and “shamelessly obstructing” victims’ quest for truth.

The blast, which was also one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history, was so powerful it was felt 155 miles away.