Journalist’s notebook: Beirut demands accountability one year after deadly explosion

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Tear gas rains on the rooftops of Beirut as Lebanese security forces push back protesters from parliament.

“The people demand the fall of immunities!” some sing while others take cover.

Wednesday marked a year that an explosion in the port of Beirut had left more than 200 dead.

Two injured men lie on the ground, waiting for help at the scene of the explosion that hit the seaport in Beirut Lebanon on Tuesday August 4, 2020 (AP Photo / Hussein Malla)
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Two injured men lie on the ground, waiting for help at the scene of the explosion that hit the seaport in Beirut Lebanon on Tuesday August 4, 2020 (AP Photo / Hussein Malla)

Thousands of people gathered at the site of the blast to pay their respects before marching through the city, calling for the dissolution of parliament and the suspension of laws that protect senior government officials.

“We are strong, we are united and we are here to work against any decision that could stop justice,” protest organizer Charbel Chaaya told Fox News.

Thousands of people gathered at the site of the blast to pay their respects before marching through the city, calling for the dissolution of parliament and the suspension of laws that protect senior government officials.

Thousands of people gathered at the site of the blast to pay their respects before marching through the city, calling for the dissolution of parliament and the suspension of laws that protect senior government officials.
(Fox News)

LEBANON, TAKEN UP IN CRISES, MARKS 1 YEAR SINCE THE HORRIDGE Explosion of BEIRUT

So far, ministers and top security officials have avoided prosecution for last summer’s disaster that saw hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate catch on fire and explode. The explosion was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in human history.

Protesters said the tragedy was another example of government mismanagement and corruption that has plagued Lebanon for decades. They want the dissolution of parliament, the suspension of laws that protect government leaders and new elections.

Protesters attend to an injured man during protests on the anniversary of a massive explosion in Beirut.

Protesters attend to an injured man during protests on the anniversary of a massive explosion in Beirut.

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The consequences of actions such as raising central bank interest rates and diverting money to political parties are now being felt on the lives of civilians.

A few minutes after arriving in Beirut, you can feel that the city is on edge. Traffic lights and streetlights are not working. There are lines of cars at gas stations. Pharmacies are largely short of drugs.

A security guard injured during protests on the anniversary of a massive explosion in Beirut.

A security guard injured during protests on the anniversary of a massive explosion in Beirut.
(Fox News)

From business owners to doctors to students, people leave the country if they can. Those who remain do not see how Lebanon will recover.

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Michael Shebli owns a hotel in downtown Beirut. He spoke to Fox News days after the explosion. At the time, he was committed to rebuilding, but said he had a lot of anger in him. Now with no political solution on the horizon, Michael said conditions had only gotten worse.

Hotel owner Michael Shebli once pledged to rebuild, but said conditions had worsened in the year since the explosion.

Hotel owner Michael Shebli once pledged to rebuild, but said conditions had worsened in the year since the explosion.
(Fox News)

The psychological distress caused by the explosion still affects around half of Beirut’s adult population, according to the United Nations. For the most part, there is neither the time nor the money to deal with mental health. People are in survival mode.

“After what happened a year ago, I’m not scared. Honestly,” Shebli said. “Literally, if someone comes and shoots me now or tortures me. Whatever it is, it doesn’t make a difference.”

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