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The “remnants” of the silos of the port of Beirut… Do they pose a danger after the disaster?

Two days ago, the acting Lebanese Minister of Information, Abbas Al-Halabi, announced the formation of a ministerial committee to study the condition of the wheat silos at risk of collapse, and to submit a report no later than the end of February.

On Wednesday, Lebanese Economy Minister Amin Salam revealed, in statements to local media, the government’s intention to conduct a tender to choose a company to demolish the silos, “because they have become very dangerous and are in danger of collapsing, and they could collapse if a strong storm hits.”

Salam added: “A company that will carry out the demolition operations will be selected before launching the reconstruction tender, and what is collected from the demolition operations can be sold for millions of dollars, from steel to other components, which allows covering the cost of demolition.”

Salam refused to link the demolition of the silos to the issue of the judicial investigation into the explosion.

engineering opinion

Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at Beirut Arab University, Professor Yahya Timsah, who previously supervised the preparation of a study for the university on the site of the explosion, said, “Our study was advanced and aimed to determine the amount of materials that exploded and their consequences, and silos were an essential element in it.”

He continued in an interview with “Sky News Arabia”: “We conducted an engineering audit and tests on the building, reinforced concrete and concrete structure, and with regard to the structural situation of the silos, they are relatively tilted and their current situation is structurally unstable, meaning that it could lead to the collapse of the silos in the long run. But it is certainly not liable to fall if a storm hits.”

Temsah added: “I have reservations about the phrase that is liable to collapse, as described by the Minister of Economy, which means that a strong wind can lead to the downfall of the silos, because the quality of the cylindrical facility in itself is one of the strongest types of facilities, and the accurate description is that its condition is unstable and not suitable for use, but it is not tenuous. Currently, it is not possible to fall unless the slope increases and the risk that may occur due to a strong earthquake, for example, increases.

The academic explained: “Even if the slope increases, this does not mean that the silos will collapse, but that partial demolitions may occur.”

Temsah added: “The study conducted by the Faculty of Engineering at Beirut Arab University is not the only one, but its importance lies in its publication in a high-level scientific journal that is considered one of the highest engineering references in the world.”

But he said: “We cannot use the silos for what they are currently designed for, but they can be a witness and a memorial after strengthening them, because the tendency is likely to increase due to damage to the bottom of the silos at the point of their meeting with the building bases.”

The engineering research study of the Beirut Arab University showed that the port explosion was caused by only 20.5 percent of the amount of ammonium nitrate estimated at 2,750 tons, which was stored in one of the port’s warehouses.

The amount exploded in the disaster that occurred on August 4, 2020, is equivalent to about 220 tons of high explosive TNT, or the equivalent of 564 tons of nitrates.

The study also stated that the silos absorbed a small percentage of the energy released by the explosion (approximately 0.11%), which indicates that they did not form an effective barrier as was previously rumored, and their presence was not effective in protecting part of Beirut from the explosion.

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