TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Old buildings on the brink of collapse in impoverished Tripoli neighborhoods are raising concerns among residents, who fear a bout of harsh weather conditions might leave them homeless.
Climate concerns and social marginalization have led some to take shelter in public places, which are then altered by inhabitants to feel more like a home.
Rabih Kazboura lives with his family in a dilapidated two-room house on a neglected piece of land owned by the Islamic Endowment in the neighborhood of Mawlawiya. The bedroom was destroyed when a huge rock fell on the house during a recent storm.
Kazboura’s nine family members, who narrowly escaped the incident, now live huddled in the other room.
“The rock that fell on our house has destroyed one of two basic pillars in the house, and it cracked the bedroom, creating a hole in the wall,” Kazboura said. “If the rain continues to fall, then the house will collapse.”
He added, “The day after the tragedy the police came and transported us to a motel near a popular cafe, but I refused to stay there because it is full of foreigners and the bathroom and kitchen are shared. I had to protect my children. So they took us to a police station, where we slept in a room with no mattresses or blankets.”
The next day Kazboura received a call from the mayor’s secretary asking them to evacuate the house, but did not offer the family compensation. He was informed that if he did not evacuate, the local government would not be responsible for them.
Kazboura refused to leave his home, and the family was asked to leave the police station “and the mayor didn’t return our calls.”
“I built this home with all my savings of 10 years, and one day I have to leave it to my wife and children,” he said.
Asia Nasser resides with her sick husband and four children nearby, in a house they made of wood and clay.
Near the entrance are piles of wood that Nasser uses to cook and heat the two-room house with no windows. The ceiling is made of rotten wood which leaks during rainy winters. During storms, the entire house trembles, including the furniture.
“When my husband used to work we resided in a normal house. But when he got sick he lost his job, and what he earns now is not enough to buy us food,” Naser said.
“I’m sick and need a heart operation, also, so I can’t work either.”
The Nassers came to live in their present residence because they could no longer afford rent.
Nasser added that her family is subject to frequent flooding because the inclined road above them is cracked, allowing rain water to seep in. She fears that with more flooding over time her home will collapse. “We don’t want any money from anyone. We just want the municipality to help us repair our homes so that we will not face death or become homeless,” Nasser added.
She said her story is but one of many in her Tripoli neighborhood and other districts in the north. A few days ago a house collapsed in Al-Qobeh, but the incident did not capture the attention of the media, she added regretfully.
“The mayor and municipal council of Tripoli have no masks to hide their stark negligence,” she said. “At a time when the Lebanese Cabinet is calling to improve the Syrian refugees’ circumstances, we call on them to improve the circumstances of the Lebanese first.”