Huge twin blasts in the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020 left more than 200 people dead and 6,000 injured. The source of the disaster was 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a compound used as a fertiliser that is also a very powerful explosive agent. It had been stored at the port with no precautions for more than six years. The tragedy soon became a symbol of Lebanon’s years-long political, social and economic crises. Despite promises of change, wounds left by the explosion have yet to heal.
Within minutes of the blasts, images of destruction went viral on social media. Then, in the hours and days following, residents took stock of the sheer extent of the damage, their city disfigured and in parts almost unrecognisable. Finally, shock gave way to anger, as locals denounced a catastrophe that could easily have been avoided.
The Lebanese people ramped up their calls for change, and they weren’t the only ones. Two days after the disaster, French President Emmanuel Macron travelled to Beirut, bringing a message of “solidarity and fraternity”, but also urging deep reform. But one year later, the overhaul of Lebanon’s political class has failed to materialise.
The country’s leaders are still unable to agree on a new government and the official investigation into the explosion has not even concluded. Lebanon is sinking deeper into crisis amid inflation, unemployment and a food and fuel shortage. Half the country’s population is now living below the poverty line.
FRANCE 24’s Cyril Payen and Bilal Tarabey revisit Beirut, a wounded city that remains unable to heal. They spoke to Mehyeddin Lazkani, the son of one of the victims in the blasts, writer Charif Majdalani and former singer Cosette Sader Khairallah, who all shared their despair at the situation facing the capital.