BEIRUT (Reuters) -Lebanon’s cabinet on Thursday approved the demolition of the Beirut silos damaged in the August 2020 port blast which left at least 215 people dead, Lebanese Information Minister Ziad Makari said in televised comments after a cabinet session.
Makari said the decision was based on a “technical report” that concluded the silos could collapse in the coming months, adding it would be too expensive to renovate them.
Families of victims have called for the gutted grain silos to remain in place as a memorial, at least until a stalled probe into the chemical explosion can conclude.
Following the Cabinet’s decision, a few dozen protesters, including family members of victims, gathered on a road near the remains of the structures.
“We want the silos to stay,” Zeina Noun, the mother of fireifghter Joe Noun who died in the blast, told Reuters.
“We don’t like them. We stand with our backs to them because our children died here. But we want people to keep remembering the fourth of August… until they issue an indictment and hold accountable those who did this to our children,” she said.
“I hate the silos, I hate them. And I hate this place… but they are forcing us to keep coming back here.”
The investigation into the blast, one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded, has faced pushback from senior politicians who have refused to be interrogated.
Accountability has been almost entirely absent in Lebanon for decades despite dozens of bombings and assassinations, rampant corruption and a 2019 financial crisis that the World Bank has said is among the worst in modern times.
Makari said that Lebanon’s interior and culture ministers had been tasked with overseeing the creation of a separate memorial for the blast.
Culture Minister Mohamed Mortada previously told Reuters the government had decided to demolish the silos and rebuild new ones based on a “purely economic assessment” of Lebanon’s food security needs.
Lebanon needs more wheat storage to cope with global grains shortages resulting from the Russian war in Ukraine, from where Lebanon imports most of its wheat, officials say.
(Reporting by Timour Azhari and Yara Abi Nader; Editing by Jon Boyle and Mike Harrison)