A section of Beirut's massive port grain silos, which were shredded in the 2020 explosion that hit the area, collapsed in a huge cloud of dust on Sunday after a weekslong fire, triggered by grains that had fermented and ignited in the summer heat, reports The Associated Press.
The northern block of the silos toppled after what sounded like an explosion, kicking up thick grey dust that enveloped the iconic structure and the port next to a residential area. It was not immediately clear if anyone was injured.
Assaad Haddad, the General Director of the Port Silo, told AP that "everything is under control" but that the situation has not subsided yet. Minutes later, the dust subsided and calm returned.
However, Youssef Mallah, from the Civil Defense department, said that other parts of the silos' northern block were at risk and that other sections of the giant ruin could collapse.
The August 4, 2020 explosion at the Beirut Port left 218 dead and 7,000 injured. It was caused when a large amount of ammonium nitrate stored at the port detonated.
A report published following the incident linked Hezbollah to the explosion at the port, saying the group received from Iran many supplies of ammonium nitrate.
The report cast doubt over the denial by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah that his group had any connection to the blast in Beirut.
The 50 year-old, 48-meter-tall silos withstood the force of the explosion two years ago, effectively shielding the western part of Beirut from the blast, according to AP.
In July, a fire broke out in the northern block of the silos due to the fermenting grains. Firefighters and Lebanese Army soldiers were unable to put it out and it smoldered for weeks. The environment and health ministries last week issued instructions to residents living near the port to stay indoors in well-ventilated spaces.
Sunday's collapse of a part of the silos' northern section comes just days ahead of the second anniversary of 2020 explosion.
In October of 2021, Lebanon's appeals court rejected lawsuits filed against the lead investigator of the Beirut port explosion in a decision that allows him to resume his work.
The lawsuits were part of a growing campaign by Lebanon’s political class against the investigation into the devastating port explosion.
The challenge automatically suspended the probe until the decision was reached. The appeals court rejected the request to remove Judge Tarek Bitar, saying doing so is not its jurisdiction.
Previously, Bitar confirmed charges filed by his predecessor against former Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab and three former ministers. Diab was summoned for questioning on accusations of intentional killings and negligence.
Bitar later issued a subpoena for Diab, after he failed show up for questioning.