Lebanese try to storm energy ministry amid power cuts

Lebanon's economic and financial crisis poses the most significant threat to the country since a devastating 15-year civil war ended in 1990. (File: Reuters)
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Updated 04 August 2020

Lebanese try to storm energy ministry amid power cuts

  • Security forces pushed back against the angry protesters, as they chased away some others
  • Lebanon's economic and financial crisis poses the most significant threat to the country since a the end of a 15-year civil war

BEIRUT: Dozens of Lebanese protesters tried to storm the Ministry of Energy on Tuesday, angered by prolonged power cuts as the country grapples with a crippling economic crisis.
Security forces pushed back against the angry protesters, chasing away some who breached the ministry perimeter. Scuffles ensued as protesters pushed the metal barricade and said they plan to set up a sit-in at the ministry.
“We came today and we will stay" said an unnamed protester who read a statement to the media, adding that they will liberate the ministry “from corruption ... and the management that plunged this country into darkness.”
Lebanon's economic and financial crisis poses the most significant threat to the country since a devastating 15-year civil war ended in 1990. The highly-indebted government is facing a rapid inflation, soaring unemployment and poverty, made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.
Amid the crisis, recurrent power outage worsened as the government failed to secure essential energy sources.
Lebanon has largely relied on fuel shipped in from neighboring countries and imported diesel for the powerful generators cartel that provides for the incomplete national grid, in shambles since the end of the war. For decades, the country struggled with power cuts and a huge public debt for the national electricity company that racks up a deficit of nearly $2 billion a year.
But the rationing increased since June, and became so severe that residents reported only a couple of hours of electricity per day in some areas. Generator providers shut down their machines to ration existing fuel and raised prices because of a plunging national currency. Lebanese turned to traditional kerosene lamps and candles while hospitals warned their fuel stock was running out.
Lebanon's problems are rooted in years of mismanagement and corruption. Nationwide protests that erupted last October subsided amid restrictions over the coronavirus pandemic and widening troubles.
But limited protests have recently returned, particularly since prolonged power cuts in the summer heat.
“We want to send a message that we are not leaving here until there is electricity" all day, said Ali Daher, another protester.


Lebanon finds four bodies after deadly sea crossing

Updated 21 September 2020

Lebanon finds four bodies after deadly sea crossing

  • UN peacekeepers retrieved one body and rescued 36 people from a boat in trouble in international waters off the Lebanese coast
  • Families of the survivors said the boat had been adrift without food or water for around a week
BEIRUT: Lebanon has retrieved the bodies of four people including a child after they tried to flee the crisis-hit country by sea on an overloaded dinghy, the civil defense said Monday.
A week ago, UN peacekeepers retrieved one body and rescued 36 people from a boat in trouble in international waters off the Lebanese coast.
Families of the survivors said the boat had been adrift without food or water for around a week, during which time several passengers had died or jumped overboard to find help.
The bodies are presumed to be from the same ill-fated crossing.
Since Friday, “we have retrieved four bodies — belonging to two Lebanese, one of whom was a child, a young Indian man and a Syrian man,” Samir Yazbek, the head of the civil defense’s sea rescue unit, told AFP.
The bodies were found in four separate locations off the north and south coasts of the country, and the search was ongoing, he added.
The UN refugee agency said last week that 25 Syrians, eight Lebanese and three people of other nationalities had been rescued from the boat.
It is unclear how many men, women and children originally clambered aboard the dinghy, and therefore how many are still missing.
On Saturday, the navy said it would step up its searches within and outside Lebanon’s territorial waters to find any other victims.
Relatives of those who went missing from the impoverished north Lebanese city of Tripoli say the people smuggler involved in the crossing has dropped off the radar since the tragedy.
They have filed three legal complaints against the man, who they say is a well-known figure in the community.
A military source on Saturday said a person acting as an intermediary between passengers and the boat owner had been arrested.
In recent weeks, dozens of Lebanese and Syrians have tried to make the perilous sea journey from Lebanon to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, authorities on both sides say.
The Republic of Cyprus, a European Union member, lies just 160 kilometers (100 miles) away.
Lebanon is in the throes of its worst economic crisis in decades, compounded since February by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
It is also reeling from a monster blast at Beirut’s port last month that killed more than 190 people, ravaged large parts of the capital and reignited public anger against the political class.