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MEAS denies responsibility in Beirut tunnel flooding
File - A Middle East Airlines jet is seen parked in the tarmac of Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut, Thursday, July 4, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir )
File - A Middle East Airlines jet is seen parked in the tarmac of Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut, Thursday, July 4, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir )
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BEIRUT: Middle East Airport Services denied Sunday any responsibility for the Beirut tunnel flooding earlier this month.

“MEAS affirms it fully carried out its contracted duty, and that it is not responsible for the unfortunate damages that occurred on Dec. 4,” the company said in a statement, adding that it would provide the judiciary investigating the flooding case with the necessary documents and reports.

Earlier this month, heavy rain flooded the tunnel near the airport, leaving hundreds of people stranded in their vehicles for hours while other vehicles drowned in the water.

Lebanon’s financial prosecutor Thursday charged the local company with negligence and sabotage after the severe highway flooding.

The company allegedly failed to carry out storm drain maintenance in the tunnel.

In its statement, the company said it was a private shareholder firm that has been carrying out operations and maintenance work at Rafik Hariri International Airport according to a contract with the government signed on Nov. 24, 1998.

It also noted that the firm works under the daily supervision of engineers representing the government.

“The responsibility of MEAS regarding the tunnel since 2005 and according to the original contract is limited to maintenance and operating of water pumping stations and sewage systems inside the tunnel,” the company said, adding that maintaining the sewage system outside the tunnel was not part of its assigned tasks.

The company said the water rose to 1.6 meters inside the tunnel due to the overflow of the Ghadir River, citing a report by a state-run engineering house issued on Dec. 12. It also said that the report indicated MEAS was not responsible for the tunnel’s flooding.

“MEAS is not responsible for any maintenance work on the sewage outside the tunnel,” it added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 23, 2013, on page 3.
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