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Lebanese mark 1st anniversary of port blast

Beirut Port in first anniversary of the blast
Beirut Port in first anniversary of the blast

By Ayoub Khaddaj

BEIRUT, Aug 4 (KUNA) -- Lebanese today mark the first anniversary of the Beirut Port blast that killed 241 people and left 6,500 others wounded or maimed for life.
Demonstrations are scheduled throughout the day and all businesses are shut amid a national day of mourning for souls of the deceased.
Internal security forces have carried out extraordinary measures, closing some roads and shifting traffic to facilitate movement of several marches, coming from various regions to the devastated harbor.
Activists are scheduled to gather in front of Beirut's fire brigade headquarters before proceeding to the port for partaking in prayers, set to be held by the Christian Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Raee, exactly at the time (6:10 p.m.) when stockpiles of nitrate ammonia blew up at one of the warehouses at the seaside facility last year.
Images of the enormous blast that sent a mushroom-like dark cloud of smoke, synonymous with nuclear blasts, into the skies, remain vivid in the people consciousness.
The demonstrators are also scheduled to gather in front of the justice palace to re-manifest their demand for fruitful legal proceedings to put those responsible for the tragedy behind bars. A number of suspects have been detained but until now, no prosecution has been held issued for conviction.
Other activists, including owners of buildings, houses and properties demolished in the fiery blast, will protest outside the government headquarters and the parliament.
The anniversary falls while politicians continue to grapple with posts' distribution issues, hampering formation of a new government to salvage the country that has been swamped with problems since resignation of Hassan Diab's government in the aftermath of the August 4, 2020, explosion.
Diab's government continues to serve on caretaking basis and a cabinet with full jurisdictions must be formed and carry out basic reforms, as warranted by the international community to bail out the country.
However, the legal proceeding have been conducted at turtle pace, as officials summoned by the investigation magistrate have declined to show up for questioning.
The port blast had inflicted wide-scale damage in many nearby residential districts, adding to the burden of piles of crises, suffered by Lebanese for many years.
The country had witnessed a civil war between 1975 and 1990, losing 150,000 souls. A Saudi-mediated accord ended the infighting and the country had witnessed general calm until assassination of the former prime minister, Rafiq Al-Hariri, in 2005.
Political instability, failure to established a productive economy post the civil war, rampant corruption, embezzlement of public funds, among other factors, have recently caused the crises to deepen drastically further, with the value of the Lebanese pound crumbling. (end) ayb.rk