Lebanese officials have warned about 60 historic buildings in Beirut are in danger of collapsing following the terrible port explosion last week, as the UN cultural agency vowed to lead an international campaign to restore and restoring the legacy of Beirut.
According to Unesco, Sarkis Khoury, general manager in charge of antiquities at the Lebanese Ministry of Culture, said at least 8,000 buildings, many of which are concentrated in the historic sites of Gemayzeh and Mar Mikhael, have been affected. Among them are about 640 historic buildings, about 60 of which are in danger of collapse, he said.
Also affected is Beirut’s eastern Achrafieh neighborhood, home to the famous Sursock museum. Other nearby areas are home to the also damaged National Museum and the Archaeological Museum of the American University of Beirut, Unesco said. The damaged structures also included art galleries and religious sites.
On August 4, 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at the port of Beirut exploded, destroying the city’s main trading center and damaging large areas of the Lebanese capital. The blast was the most devastating in the country’s troubled history, killing more than 170 people, injuring more than 6,000, and causing damage worth $ 10 billion – $ 15 billion.
The FBI will join Lebanese, French and other international investigators in the investigation after being invited by the Lebanese government.
Lebanese officials on Thursday agreed to appoint a judicial investigator to head the investigation under the auspices of the supreme judiciary council, which handles crimes infringing upon the country’s national security, as well as political crimes and state security.
The hardest hit areas are Gemayzeh and Mar Mikhael, opposite the port and known for its vibrant nightlife, with many old buildings turned into pubs or restaurants.
“The international community sent a strong signal of support to Lebanon after this tragedy,” said Ernesto Ottone Ramirez, Unesco’s assistant general manager for culture. “Unesco is committed to leading the response in the cultural sector, which should be an important part of broader reconstruction and recovery efforts.”
There have been many years in Lebanon with concerns about historic buildings being sold and then demolished for replacement with tall buildings. It has been reported in recent days that middlemen have contacted owners of damaged historic buildings and offered high prices to purchase their property.
Ghazi Wazni, Finance Minister, issued a decree on Wednesday preventing the sale of any historic buildings without the permission of the Ministry of Culture. The ministry of finance said the move was aimed at preventing any “exploitation”.
Abbas Murtada, Minister of Culture, said on Thursday his ministry is working to stop the exploitation by entrepreneurs and added that restoration of damaged historic buildings is estimated to cost around 300. million dollars. He added that teams from his ministry are developing plans for renovations of buildings.
The World Bank, in a preliminary assessment, said about 50,000 residential units were damaged and 80% of residential buildings and infrastructure were affected by the explosion, in addition to the destruction of the port.
An earlier estimate from the governor of Beirut, Marwan Abboud, said the blast caused 10 billion to 15 billion dollars in damage, with nearly 300,000 people homeless.
On Thursday, the Lebanese parliament passed a state of emergency in Beirut in its first session since the blast, granting military raid rights amid angry populace over official corruption and governance. weakness as well as political instability.
The disaster has raised public outrage towards Lebanon’s leaders to new heights as the country suffers an unprecedented economic and financial crisis, coupled with the coronavirus pandemic.