Smoldering Beirut port silo at risk of collapse as grain ignites

Smoldering Beirut port silo at risk of collapse as grain ignites
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Firefighters extinguish a fire at the silos in the north block of the Beirut Port in Beirut on July 21, 2022. (AP)
Smoldering Beirut port silo at risk of collapse as grain ignites
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General view of fire-hit grain silos at Beirut port, Lebanon, on July 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Smoldering Beirut port silo at risk of collapse as grain ignites
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General view of fire-hit grain silos at Beirut port, Lebanon, on July 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Smoldering Beirut port silo at risk of collapse as grain ignites
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A view of the silos in the north block of the Beirut Port blackened by a dayslong fire on July 22, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 22 July 2022

Smoldering Beirut port silo at risk of collapse as grain ignites

Smoldering Beirut port silo at risk of collapse as grain ignites
  • Fire rages as Lebanon suffers from worsening wheat and bread shortages
  • Silos survived deadly port blast and ‘stand as a witness to a crime that affected everyone’

BEIRUT: A massive silo holding thousands of tons of grain at Beirut port is at risk of collapse because of a fire that has been smoldering for weeks amid Lebanon’s summer heat.

Flames and thick black smoke could be seen rising from the silo after the blaze flared up on Friday.

The fire prompted a warning by Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati to “workers and members of the civil defense and the fire brigade not to approach the location for their safety and to avoid endangering their lives.”

Recent high temperatures are believed to have caused wheat in the silo — one of two massive structures that withstood the deadly blast at Beirut’s port two years ago — to ferment, igniting thousands of tons of grain.

Reports by the ministries of interior, economy, public works and environment have warned that “parts of the left side of the silo might be at risk of collapse.”

The threat to the silo is causing growing alarm among port workers and management of the facility.

Smoke and flames at the site also revive the painful memory of the deadly explosion that shook the port on Aug. 4, 2020.

Caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi has asked the fire brigade and civil defense to immediately start “cooling down” the wheat silos.

While the Lebanese look on helplessly as the last of the wheat stored in the silo burns, mills and bakeries around the country are struggling with an acute shortage of subsidized flour used to make Lebanese pita bread.

Caretaker Economy Minister Amin Salam said that 50,000 tons of wheat will arrive in Lebanon in the coming 10 days, ensuring a six-week supply.

Seven mills out of 11 have closed because they ran out of subsidized wheat, according to a bakery owners’ syndicate.

The presence of more than 500,000 tourists in Lebanon is adding to the strain on bread supplies, it added.

Meanwhile, the silo fire has revived simmering tensions between families of the port blast victims and government bodies.

Last April, government agencies recommended the silos be demolished due to the risks the structures pose to the surrounding area.

However, families and activists reject the demolition, saying that it will destroy “one of the main landmarks of the biggest explosion witnessed by Lebanon,” according to the Order of Engineers.

The silos “stand as a witness to a crime that affected everyone,” it said.

The Order of Engineers has called for work to “consolidate the affected silos.”

Experts say that the fire will die down eventually, but have warned against using water to fight the blaze, saying this might accelerate the fermentation process.

Political, security, judicial and military officials continue to blame each other for the port explosion.

Judicial investigations into the crime were suspended last November, due to political interventions and lawsuits filed against judge Tarek Bitar, who is heading the inquiry.

Defendants, including former MPs and ministers, are calling for Bitar to be removed from the case.

In a briefing submitted to the Security Council on Thursday, the UN special coordinator for Lebanon, Joanna Wronecka, highlighted “the absence of progress in the judicial measures related to the Beirut port explosion case, which further saddens the families of the dead and wounded.”

Wronecka demanded that “hindrances obstructing the judicial course be removed, and a comprehensive and transparent investigation into the case be carried out.”


At least 20 escape Syria prison holding Daesh inmates after quake

At least 20 escape Syria prison holding Daesh inmates after quake
Updated 07 February 2023

At least 20 escape Syria prison holding Daesh inmates after quake

At least 20 escape Syria prison holding Daesh inmates after quake
  • The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said it could not verify whether prisoners had escaped, but confirmed there was a mutiny

AZAZ: Prisoners mutinied in a northwestern Syria prison Monday following a deadly earthquake, with at least 20 escaping the jail holding mostly Daesh group members, a source at the facility told AFP.
The military police prison in the town of Rajo near the Turkish border holds about 2,000 inmates, with about 1,300 of them suspected to be Daesh fighters, said the source.
The prison also holds fighters from Kurdish-led forces.
“After the earthquake struck, Rajo was affected and inmates started to mutiny and took control of parts of the prison,” said the official at Rajo jail, which is controlled by pro-Turkish factions.
“About 20 prisoners fled... who are believed to be Daesh militants.”
The 7.8-magnitude quake — which was followed by dozens of aftershocks in the region — caused damage to the prison, with walls and doors cracking, the source added.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said it could not verify whether prisoners had escaped, but confirmed there was a mutiny.
At least 1,444 people died Monday across Syria after the devastating earthquake that had its epicenter in southwestern Turkiye, the government and rescuers said.
In rebel-held parts of the country’s northwest, at least 733 people were killed and more than 2,100 injured, according to the White Helmets rescue group.
The incident in Rajo comes on the heels of an Daesh attack in December on a security complex in their former de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa, which aimed to free fellow terrorists from a prison there.
Six members of the Kurdish-led security forces that control the area were killed in the foiled assault.
The conflict in Syria started in 2011 with the brutal repression of peaceful protests and escalated to pull in foreign powers and global jihadists.
Nearly half a million people have been killed, and the conflict has forced around half of the country’s pre-war population from their homes, with many seeking refuge in Turkiye.

 


Frenchman held in Iran starts new hunger strike: sister

Frenchman held in Iran starts new hunger strike: sister
Updated 07 February 2023

Frenchman held in Iran starts new hunger strike: sister

Frenchman held in Iran starts new hunger strike: sister
  • Philippe Valent, Briere’s France-based lawyer, called the espionage charges against him “fiction” and his trial “a parody staged by the Revolutionary Guards,” the branch of the Iranian security forces entrusted with the preservation of the regime

PARIS: Benjamin Briere, a French national held in Iran, has gone on hunger strike for the second time since his incarceration in May 2020, his sister and his lawyer said Monday.
Briere, who was sentenced to eight years in jail for espionage, is one of seven French and more than two dozen foreign nationals who campaigners say Iran has jailed in a strategy of hostage-taking to extract concessions from the West.
Held in the prison of Vakilabad in the eastern city of Mashhad, he had already gone on hunger strike once before, at the end of December 2021.
“It’s the only weapon he has,” his sister Blandine Briere said in a statement.
He stopped eating on January 28, she said.
Philippe Valent, Briere’s France-based lawyer, called the espionage charges against him “fiction” and his trial “a parody staged by the Revolutionary Guards,” the branch of the Iranian security forces entrusted with the preservation of the regime.
Briere, the lawyer said, is “mentally and physically exhausted” in the “gloomy” prison which he said was known for frequent “extra-judicial executions” of inmates.
Majidreza Rahnavard, 23, the second of four people executed over the protests, was held in Mashhad and hanged in public in the city on December 12.
The conditions of Briere’s incarceration were “exceptionally harsh,” and he was being denied his rights, Valent said.
Iran needed to be held accountable for the danger to Briere’s “physical and mental wellbeing,” the lawyer said.
Another detainee in Iran, 64-year-old Franco-Irish citizen Bernard Phelan held since October 1, last month suspended a hunger strike that included refusing water, at the request of his family who feared for his life.
Phelan, a Paris-based travel consultant was arrested while traveling and is being held in Mashhad in northeastern Iran.
Iran accuses him of anti-government propaganda, a charge he has denied.
 

 


Jordan Gaming Lab hosts video game development events across the country

Jordan Gaming Lab hosts video game development events across the country
Updated 07 February 2023

Jordan Gaming Lab hosts video game development events across the country

Jordan Gaming Lab hosts video game development events across the country
  • Participants in the two-day Global Game Jam were tasked with designing a video game based on a theme revealed during the opening ceremony

AMMAN: The Jordan Gaming Lab, a project developed by the King Abdullah II Fund for Development, hosted a free, video game development event at several locations across the country. The two-day Global Game Jam took place over the weekend at the lab’s branches in Amman, Zarqa and Aqaba.

The participants were tasked with creating a video game based on a theme that was revealed during the opening ceremony for the event. Sixteen games were produced and uploaded to the GGJ website.

The aim of the challenge was to provide participants with hands-on experience of working with advanced technologies, while taking advantage of help and advice from professional game designers from around the world.

The Jordan Gaming Lab was launched in 2011 to help boost the country’s video game industry and provide networking opportunities for those interested in being a part of it.

 


Dubai aims for complete switch to eco-friendly taxis by 2027

Dubai aims for complete switch to eco-friendly taxis by 2027
Updated 07 February 2023

Dubai aims for complete switch to eco-friendly taxis by 2027

Dubai aims for complete switch to eco-friendly taxis by 2027
  • By the end of the 5-year plan, the entire taxi fleet will comprise hybrid electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles
  • The plan is in line with the goal of the Roads and Transport Authority to ensure public transportation is emissions-free by 2050

DUBAI: Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority has endorsed a plan to make all taxis in the emirate environmentally friendly by 2027.

Under the five-year plan, the entire taxi fleet will complete the switch to fully hybrid electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles, the Emirates News Agency reported on Monday. This is in line with the authority’s goal of ensuring that public transportation is emissions-free by 2050. The RTA has already replaced 72 percent of Dubai taxis with hybrid vehicles.

“The results of experiments on eco-friendly vehicles, which RTA started trialing in 2008, confirmed the environmental benefits of reducing carbon emissions, fuel consumption and maintenance costs, as well as decreasing noise levels,” the authority’s director-general, Mattar Al-Tayer, said.

“Hybrid vehicles also have a longer lifespan compared with regular vehicles and cost less in the long run. They are characterized by lower purchase prices, maintenance fees, fuel expenses, insurance premiums, and other associated costs that potentially could be as low as 50 percent of regular vehicles.”

The initial phase of the plan, in which 50 percent of Dubai’s taxi fleet was converted to eco-friendly vehicles, succeeded in reducing carbon emissions by up to 420,000 tons a year, the Emirates News Agency said.

 


Saudi authorities arrest four found in possession of more than 63,000 amphetamine tablets

Saudi authorities arrest four found in possession of more than 63,000 amphetamine tablets
Updated 06 February 2023

Saudi authorities arrest four found in possession of more than 63,000 amphetamine tablets

Saudi authorities arrest four found in possession of more than 63,000 amphetamine tablets
  • Four have been referred to the Public Prosecution

RIYADH: The Kingdom’s General Directorate of Narcotics Control arrested four citizens found in possession of 63,443 amphetamine pills in the Eastern Region, Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday. 

The pills had an estimated street value ranging from $630,000 to $1.8 million, according to figures published in the International Addiction Review journal.

The four have been referred to the Public Prosecution.