Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 23 September 2020

Beirut: fire breaks out at Zaha Hadid building

It is the city's second fire in less than a week after flames erupted at the port where an explosion last month killed almost 200 people

A fire broke out on Tuesday morning at the Zaha Hadid building in central Beirut. Videos on social media showed firefighters attempting to extinguish the flames as smoke billowed from the building and over the Hilton hotel next door.

Crowds gathered around the famous building, designed by celebrated architect Dame Zaha Hadid, as parts of the external wall fell away in the flames.

The Lebanese Civil Defence has announced that the flames are now under control. There have been no injuries reported so far.

It was not immediately clear what caused the fire at the futuristic seafront building, which sits on the main road that runs past the port.

This is the second time in less than a week that the city has suffered a major fire. Last Thursday, a blaze broke out at Beirut port, destroying a warehouse storing aid and sending a thick plume of smoke over the city.

The latest fire appears to have engulfed part of the historic souk area in the centre of Beirut. The Zaha Hadid building, a new commercial complex designed by the late British-Iraqi architect, has been under construction for years and was nearing completion when the fire broke out.

The Lebanese capital is still reeling from the huge explosion that killed almost 200 people and injured more than 6,000 on August 4. The blast, which laid waste to swathes of the city and left around 300,000 homeless, prompted the government to resign six days later.

The country is facing an unprecedented economic crisis and financial collapse, blamed on decades of mismanagement and corruption by an entrenched political class.

Last month’s blast – caused by nearly 3,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate being improperly stored at the port for years – is seen as the culmination of leaders unable to manage the country’s affairs or protect its people.

So far, authorities have been unable to provide answers about the explosion, and there has been no accountability for it.

Last week's fire prompted terrified residents to open their windows and take refuge in corridors fearing a repeat of the August 4 explosion.

It's unclear what sparked the flames last week, which reignited on Saturday before being fully extinguished.

Updated: September 15, 2020 01:41 PM

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