Mourners in Beirut organize “funerals”

Beirut — Lebanese protesters carried fake coffins in a symbolic funeral procession from the port of Beirut on Sunday to demand justice, days after the first anniversary of a massive dockside explosion that killed more than 200 people.
CAUSE OF EXPLOSION. Protesters join the families of the August 4 victims in a symbolic funeral procession from the port of Beirut on August 8, days after the first anniversary of a large dockside explosion in Lebanon that killed more than 200 people. AFP

The families of the victims were joined by dozens of sympathizers, some dressed in black and carrying lighted torches, at the entrance to the port where a warehouse fire on August 4 ignited a vast reserve of ammonium nitrate, causing one of the biggest peacetime explosions in history. The wives, sisters and mothers of those killed held portraits of their loved ones and marched past three symbolic coffins covered with flowers, an AFP journalist said. “Ammonium nitrate did that,” one sign read. Accompanied by the drums of a marching band, the demonstrators marched through the neighboring districts of Gemmayzeh and Mar Mikhail, which were heavily damaged by the explosion. “These coffins are symbols to remind people that we carried the coffins of our martyrs,” said Ibrahim Hteit, spokesperson for an association of bereaved families. “We deserve the truth and we deserve justice for our loved ones. We are not going to give up, ”he said. Thousands of people demonstrated in Beirut on Wednesday to mark the anniversary of the explosion, expressing outrage that no one was held responsible for the disaster that left 214 people dead. Ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive fertilizer, had been stored for years at the port without any security measures, according to the government itself. The explosion injured 6,500 people and caused billions of dollars in damage. However, little progress has been made on a judicial investigation into the disaster. Former ministers are suspected of complicity in the negligence that led to the explosion. Lebanon’s deeply unpopular ruling class has been accused of doing everything possible to torpedo the investigation and avoid prosecution. “The crime continues, lift the immunity!” Read a sign at the rally on Sunday. Hélène Ata, a psychologist who lost her twin brother Abdo, 38, called on Lebanese citizens to take to the streets every day until justice is served. “The pain is worsening every day, under the shadow of the injustice around this case, the inaction of those responsible, their flight from justice,” she said. “A year later, it’s like nothing has happened,” she said.

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