UN puts death toll at 178, several historic buildings facing collapse
The United Nations’ cultural agency has said it will lead the international campaign for the recovery and restoration of Beirut’s heritage, citing local officials who said that around 60 historic buildings in the Lebanese capital were at risk of collapse following a devastating explosion at the Beirut port.
On August 4, some 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored at Beirut’s port blew up, obliterating the city’s main commercial hub and spreading death and wreckage for miles around.
The death toll from the deadly explosion has risen to nearly 178, with an estimated 6,000 people injured and at least 30 missing, the United Nations said on Friday.
The blast, the most destructive in Lebanon’s troubled history caused damage of up to $15 billion. Among the damaged structures were museums, historic buildings, art galleries and religious sites in Beirut.
The most affected areas in the capital were the historic quarters of Gemayzeh and Mar Mikhael that face the port and that were known for their active night life, with many old buildings turned to pubs or restaurant.
“The international community has sent a strong signal of support to Lebanon following this tragedy,” said Ernesto Ottone, assistant Unesco director-general for culture.
“Unesco is committed to leading the response in the field of culture, which must form a key part of wider reconstruction and recovery efforts.” Unesco’s statement quoted Sarkis Khoury, director-general of antiquities at the ministry of culture in Lebanon, as saying that at least 8,000 buildings, many concentrated in Gemayzeh and Mar Mikhael, were affected.
Among them are some 640 historic buildings, approximately 60 of which are at risk of collapse, he said.
Also affected was Beirut’s eastern neighbourhood of Achrafieh where the landmark Sursock Museum is located as well as other neighbourhoods that are home to the National Museum and the Archaeological Museum of the American University of Beirut, Unesco said.
Unesco said that it will lead the international mobilisation “for the recovery and reconstruction of Beirut’s culture and heritage.”