Editorial

Lebanon's officials are its worst enemies

Graphic Content- A huge explosion rocks Beirut, Aug. 4, 2020. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

Tuesday’s explosion made one thing amply clear: Lebanon does not need enemies. Our officials, through their incompetence, are perfectly capable of inflicting in a few seconds more damage to our capital than any enemy could in a sustained assault.

State officials are elected or appointed for one purpose: to serve the people. That service includes, among other things, protecting the country and its citizens from harm of any form.

And yet, if we are to believe prevailing reports, these same officials deemed it wise to store 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a dangerous substance, in the heart of Beirut.

Whatever their excuses, the complete lack of prudence resulted in arguably the most powerful non-atomic explosion in history with an intensity that falls just short of a nuclear blast.

There can be no politics in this matter, and we will certainly not entertain conspiracy theories. What the facts tell us is that, to date, there are more than 135 fatalities, more than 5,000 people injured, including one of The Daily Star’s own, and hundreds of anxious families awaiting news on the fate of their loved ones who are missing. And in all likelihood, the brave firefighters who rushed to put out the initial blaze were vaporized in the final explosion.

The degree of destruction across the capital is beyond comprehension, with buildings near the blast site pulverized, over 300,000 people left homeless, and the cost of the material damage estimated at more than $5 billion.

Moreover, the destruction of Beirut Port compromised the country’s ability to import essential goods such as wheat, foodstuffs and medication, commodities that were already proving problematic to deliver to citizens.

This disaster comes at a time when Lebanon is already reeling beneath surging cases of coronavirus, an economy in shambles, a severely devalued currency and more than half the population suddenly reduced to poverty. It goes without saying that in the current climate the vast majority of citizens whose properties were damaged or destroyed lack the means to rebuild their homes or the sources of their livelihoods after this disaster.

In such difficult times, any sensible person would try to take a more responsible approach, to avoid any unnecessary risks as they try to rebuild their shattered country.

Instead, what Lebanon experienced Tuesday was the result of utter negligence, ignorance and apathy by a handful of people who reportedly have been trying to capitalize on a shipment seized years ago and waiting for someone to light the fuse.

It is not far-fetched to imagine that those callous officials are already devising ways to try to bury the facts, talk their way out of indictments or attempt to secure political wins from a tragedy that engulfed the entire nation.

But we remind them that the last time their negligence brought harm to this country, namely the blaze that devoured swathes of forests in the Chouf, was the spark that resulted in the nationwide protests of Oct. 17, 2019, that paralyzed the country and toppled the government.

But compared to Tuesday’s explosion, that blaze was a mere hiccup, and our officials should comprehend that this is their last and final chance to shape up and do what they were elected to do. This country and these people have lost everything, and they no longer have the means or the patience to tolerate indifference, complacency or impunity. You were elected to serve and protect us. Do your jobs.

 

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