Beirut Struggles To Survive One Month After The Explosion

AP Photo/Bilal Hussein

In a large windowless room in the bowels of a destroyed apartment, Lebanese residents are witnessing the changes happening around them.

This 4th of September marks a month since the largest man-made non-nuclear explosion in Lebanon’s history.

The atmosphere remains tense and, as a normal reaction from the traumatic experience, residents are fearful of what the future holds in a country that has become accustomed to war and violence.

One month later, Lebanese citizens are still dealing with the repercussions from the blast caused by a fire that ignited 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at Beirut’s port. People are still putting lives and homes back together.

On Friday 4th of September, the search still continued for survivors. This time, it was under the rubles.

A now-famous rescue dog has indicated there may be a possible survivor under the rubble.

“The rescue teams sense a movement under the rubble in the Mar Mikhael area and asked people to remain silent to determine the source of movement,” the National News Agency reported on Thursday.

After the disastrous blast killed almost 200 people, injured more than 6,500 and left some 300,000 people homeless, no number of days, months, or years could erase the memory of the tragedy that wiped out Lebanon’s capital on that fateful Tuesday.

Just like years were not enough for the older generation to overcome their own trauma from the Lebanese Civil War that lasted 15 years, the people today fear no amount of time will get them to heal from the brutal events of August 4th.

In any case, the citizens of Lebanon don’t intend to forget. They’ve vowed not to forgive those who caused it, directly or by negligence. Even if we heal, it’s won’t be the same if justice isn’t served.

The mental healing aspect, like all the ongoing constructive efforts since the blast, is being provided by the people for the people. Directly after the blast, a wave of free support for mental health emerged across Lebanon.

In partnership with the Institute for Development, Research, Advocacy and Applied Care (IDRAAC), the first non-governmental organization dedicated to mental health in Lebanon, the Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychology at Saint George Hospital launched a free walk-in mental health clinic.

In the first ten days after the blast, the clinic reports receiving up to 20 patients per day.

Today, an average of 8 to 10 people still come into the clinic, with common symptoms being anger and irritability, lack of sleep, recurrent nightmares, loss of appetite, survivor guilt, dissociation, numbness, and depression.

While the emotional scars from the explosion are invisible to the naked eye, the physical injuries and destroyed homes are a permanent reminder of what should be considered the massive crime committed by Lebanese authorities against their own people.

A month went by, and an army of citizens arriving on buses from all corners of the country armed with brooms and shovels, are still going down to the streets that were hit the hardest by the blast.

Every aspect of the positive response to the deadly explosion has been volunteer-led by average citizens.

This was the Lebanese people stepping up to do a highly-required job that, in normally-decently-functioning countries, would have been the responsibility of the government and its institutions.

In Lebanon though, they have been absent as if of no concern to them, and the disaster hasn’t affected them.

Or at least, almost of no concern, since the municipality of Beirut has found use to a rubble site of Mar Mikhael: dumping garbage over the recyclable debris while the people, from their side, are sorting out for recycling.

Instead, the most significant achievement the Lebanese government has accomplished after the blast is officially resigning and stepping down as a caretaker government.

And of course, the recent nomination of a prime minister by the same ruling group that has caused the demise of this country.

To make it worse, the authorities ordered the use of lethal force on the grieving people protesting, leading to many severe injuries.

Reportedly, the health ministry ordered hospitals to report to the police the names of the injured protesters. That came after the hospitals refused to abide by the ministry’s orders not to treat them.

While the Lebanese people attempt to recover their capital and help the broken businesses back in operation, the Lebanese government agreed to reinforce coronavirus lockdown measures after a spike in new cases threatened to overwhelm the crisis-hit country’s health care system.

According to Worldometer’s COVID-19 data, there are currently 18,963 corona-virus cases in Lebanon, with 179 death tolls, 5,338 recovery cases. Yet, the government has eased lock-down measures just a week after re-imposing them.

Weirdly enough, there had been also some days “break” in between lockdwons, for unfathomed reasons.

For restaurants that were able to pull themselves up and reopen their doors, business is extremely slow and government support is nowhere to be found.

Some believe that the increase in the number of coronavirus cases is false, another ploy by the government to control protests, especially that revolutionaries have increased in number after the explosion and been extremely vocal against the current political regime.

On August 5th, a day after the explosion, President Michel Aoun gave an investigation committee five days to find answers and present them to the judiciary.

While 25 people have been arrested so far, there has been no official announcement on any type of findings.

A month on, Beirut is still struggling to survive and the grieving citizens of Lebanon are still trying to find a way out of this darkness imposed on them by a state that refuses to care enough to help the people and rebuild the capital.

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