Although a year has passed since a massive explosion hit the port of Beirut, its repercussions still weigh heavily on the Lebanese capital and its residents.
Lebanon remembers the bleak anniversary of the explosion on Aug. 4, the day an explosion rocked Beirut, leaving at least 200 dead and thousands injured, as well as innumerable property damage. A fateful moment that changed everyday life.
Despite local and international initiatives to rebuild the city, the process has largely stalled. Sporadic restoration efforts have not substantially restored Beirut’s image.
Mohamed Shams Al-Din of International Information, a Beirut-based research company, estimated that the area damaged by the blast stretched more than 8 km in diameter and affected some 62,000 housing units and 20,000 commercial establishments.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Shams Al-Din said the city has suffered a disruption in the business cycle that has deepened since the explosion, noting that nearly 3,000 commercial establishments in Beirut remain out of service.
While some of the companies were forced to permanently close their doors due to economic difficulties, others are waiting to be restored or have decided to move out of the capital, according to Shams Al-Din.
The researcher estimated the economic losses caused by the explosion at more than $ 3 billion, noting that many families have not yet returned to their homes as they have not been restored.
Most of those affected by the explosion complain of not having been compensated by the insurance companies, with the exception of small compensations, while the companies have cited that the results of the official investigations into the cause of the explosion have not been disclosed.
According to the Beirut Union of Engineers, 2,500 buildings were directly affected, of which 300 are at risk of collapsing, 250 are at risk of partially collapsing, and 550 have cracks and need restoration.
In addition to residential buildings and commercial establishments, 968 heritage buildings dating from the 19th century were damaged to varying degrees by the blast, 360 of them described as “severely damaged”.
According to the latest data from the Lebanese Ministry of Culture, only about 20% of the 90 heritage buildings severely damaged by the blast have been restored to date.
The data also showed that around 60% of the 102 partially damaged heritage buildings have been restored so far.
The destroyed infrastructure, such as the port, roads and water and sewerage networks, caused significant economic losses in the Arab country, estimated by economist Patrick Mardini at about 15,000 million dollars.
Mardini estimates that the cost of restoring homes and businesses is approximately $ 3 billion.
See also: One year after the Beirut port explosion, no steps have been taken to rebuild it.
One of the main effects of the explosion has been the increase in unemployment in the capital, as many commercial establishments closed due to damage or financial difficulties, according to Mardini.
The expert fears that the biggest impact caused by the explosion will be psychological, noting that citizens have seen their morale drop dramatically as the financial crisis worsens, creating a general state of frustration.
The explosion has also caused air pollution in the capital, which environmental experts described as “high.”
Professor Najat Saliba, from the American University of Beirut, who specializes in the study of air quality, attributed air pollution to damage to buildings, subsequent demolition and restoration work, and debris collected inside and outside of the port.
In March, the Minister of Public Works and Transport, Michel Najjar, assured that a French company was developing a study to find out the best way to remove the rubble and clean the port. However, the removal work has not yet started.
All of this has come as Lebanon has faced a political crisis as Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati has yet to form a new government. Analysts believe that the lack of formation of a government has made it difficult for Beirut to rise again and above all rebuild its port.
Likewise, in recent months, the nation has been suffering from an acute fuel shortage due to a lack of sufficient foreign exchange, which has affected imports and caused frequent power outages.
* Juan Felipe Vélez Rojas contributed to the writing of this note.
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