For Beirut blast victims one year on, still no answers amid economic woes
Beiruti influencer Ali Chehade was sat in his apartment with his sister and pet dog Nova on August 4, 2020 when a powerful blast ripped through the city.
Here, exclusively for Newsflare, he wanders the rubble-strewn streets of Lebanon's capital one year on and recalls what it felt like that evening to be a witness to such tragedy. He also explains the frustration of the Lebanese people over the continued lack of accountability around who is responsible for the blast and describes the economic crisis, with its severe hyperinflation and gasoline shortages.
Everyone in Lebanon remembers what they were doing around 6pm on August 4 of 2020. I was sitting right here with my sister, and my dog Nova.
The building started shaking vigorously. We panicked. I thought I'd crossed off “survive an earthquake” off my bucket list.
And then ... "Boom!"
A massive explosion right across the street. Or so I thought. The explosion was so massive, people tens of miles away thought it happened across their streets.
I would have never imagined that we just survived one of the biggest human made explosions in history.
The explosion couldn't have come at a worse time. The country was passing through an economic collapse, the state bankrupt, and well, COVID-19.
Schools, hospitals, shops, homes, hundreds of them totally or partially damaged. The scenes were apocalyptic.
Hours after the explosion, the Lebanese were promised a verdict within five days. Some 365 days later, we are still waiting.
Today, things are not looking much better.
While the Lebanese government remained unapologetically actionless, nations and international NGOs from around the world aided the Lebanese in their catastrophe. Most of whom requested their aid to be given directly to the people rather than the state.
Around half a billion dollars were pledged in international aid, but that number was dwarfed by the estimated damages of $15 billion. To put that in perspective, the damage caused by Lebanon’s month-long war with Israel in 2006 were estimated at $3.5 billion.
A year later, the aftermath of the explosion is still apparent on Beirut’s streets. Broken windows and rubble is not an unusual sight. The massive blast happened meters away from some very busy streets crammed with residential buildings, restaurants, bars, and small businesses that have already been struggling due to COVID lockdown. Many of those businesses closed down due to the unbearable reconstruction costs.
Hundreds of families are yet to be able to afford to fix their homes, a lot of them are still staying with relatives, or have rented temporary apartments.
The Lebanese government did offer the people some help. However, that aid was paid in Lebanese liras, a currency that has lost more than 90 percent of its value in the last year. Reconstruction aid by the government was around 200 billion liras - a mere $10 million at the current exchange rate. To put that into perspective, with an estimated number of 300,000 affected people, that is around $30 per person. The compensation offered was so little that a lot of people rejected it simply not to go through the hassle of the paperwork.
This blast served as a hand-on proof of the negligence and incompetence of the Lebanese ruling class.
More than 200 casualties, thousands of injured, billions in losses, and 365 days later, and not one person has been convicted. Instead, we've just seen a lot of finger-pointing.