Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

Beirut’s Collapsing Grain Silos Are a Symbol of Lebanon’s Dysfunction

By Dario Sabaghi

11 Aug 2022 · 5 min read

Editor's Note

In Lebanon, there is yet to be any political accountability taken for the explosion that happened in Beirut over two years ago. This article provides a deep dive into the situation there currently.

On Aug. 4, 2020, in one of the most powerful non-nuclear blasts ever recorded, a massive cache of ammonium nitrate suddenly exploded in Lebanon’s capital of Beirut. It devastated the city and killed 218 people. Two years to the day this August, as hundreds of mourners and protesters gathered near the site to mark the anniversary of the blast, a pair of 157-foot-tall grain silos on the port collapsed before their eyes. A cloud of dust enveloped Beirut once again.

The collapse was precipitated by fires that had been raging in the northern block of the 16 silos, which hold most of the country’s grain reserves and dominate the port. In early July, according to Lebanese officials, some of the grain ignited after fermenting in the summer heat. Firefighters tried for weeks to contain the flames but could not extinguish them fully. Then, the silos, which were already heavily damaged from the 2020 explosion, began to buckle. Four fell on July 31. The next two fell as the demonstrators gathered.

Sign in to informed

  • Curated articles from premium publishers, ad-free
  • Concise Daily Briefs with quick-read summaries
  • Read, listen, save for later, or enjoy offline
  • Enjoy personalized content