Beirut Explosion: Lebanon marks somber one-year anniversary
Thousands of Lebanese gathered in Beirut as a memorial service got underway at the port to mark the first anniversary of a catastrophic explosion at the port, holding pictures of the dead and demanding justice. One year since the disaster, caused by a huge quantity of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely at the port for years, no senior official has been held to account, infuriating many Lebanese as their country also endures financial collapse. Rana Al-Dirani, Former CEO of Saifi Institute For Arabic Language, joined France 24 on this solemn day for special coverage of the one-year anniversary. Ms. Al-Dirani shared the horror she lived through that fateful day as the events unfolded: "I was in the street, I was hurt. When I woke up, I saw dead people, blood, body parts, destroyed houses, screaming, wailing, lost kids." Initially Ms. Al-Dirani thought that it was an Israeli air strike, but quickly discovered that Beirut was not under attack. What was thought to be an air strike turned out to be a catastrophic explosion that rocked the entire Lebanese capital: "It's the whole city, and the whole neighborhood is destroyed." Ms. Al-Dirani slammed the efforts of government officials: "Up until today no one's (been) held accountable for what happened, starting from our president (all the way down) to the smallest person who is working at the port and who knew about this ammonium nitrate." Unfortunately Ms. Al-Dirani's highly-respected Arabic institute did not survive the blast. "Unfortunately, we could not keep it alive, as was expected. We don't have electricity, we don't have fuel, we don't have gas, we don't have Internet. Nothing is working in this country. We tried our best to keep it alive in person. We failed."