BEIRUT (Reuters) – Beirut’s catastrophic port explosion has demolished Rita Faraj Oghlo’s house, left her family stranded and may cost her husband Adel his leg.
Like many Lebanese, they have endured multi-layered suffering since the Aug. 4 blast, which killed 179 people, injured 6,000 and triggered protests against an elite blamed for political turmoil and economic collapse.
Homes and businesses were razed in the country’s commercial heart, uprooting nearly a quarter of a million people. Many of them are now crammed into relatives’ tiny apartments, unable to imagine how they will ever be able to afford their own.
“It’s very difficult for us right now,” said Rita, who, along with her injured husband Adel and their children Christy, 2 and Saymen, 8, has moved in with her mother, stepfather and sister. The cost of the operation Adel needs looms large.
When the blast sent a mushroom cloud over Beirut, he lay on a road pleading for help in the chaos. One person used a belt as tourniquet. Another, a waiter, wrapped an apron around his crushed leg.”A lot of people saw me and they were in shock, looked and just left,” he said.
He was already struggling to find work during the economic meltdown. He sits in agony, and worries that doctors may have to amputate his leg, held together by metal screws.
“Medication doesn’t work anymore, so now I am trying to get used to the pain, get to know it, and for it to know me,” he said. “Sometimes I just sit and stroke it, like this, and cry, cry from pain. Sometimes I ask it for a five minute break.”
He is haunted by the image of his father, injured during an earlier crisis that devastated Lebanon – the 1975-1990 civil war. “I grew up with my father having his leg amputated and his arm wounded. And it was the same, he had metal braces and all.”
Like many Lebanese, he blames leaders seen as negligent for the blast — 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate which went up in flames was left for years at the port without safety measures.
“They were never even capable of taking responsibility, they never protected their own people they never protected the country,” he said. “They only protected themselves and the bunch of thugs that supported them.”
The government has said it will hold those responsible for the explosion to account. But the family is more concerned with surviving than justice.
“Without my husband,” said Rita, “I can’t stand up.”
(Writing by Michael Georgy; editing by Philippa Fletcher)