Michel El Asmar is the owner and CEO of the only construction holding company in Lebanon - Platinum Invest Holding. The holding has investments in construction in Plovdiv and Sofia, as the Lebanese businessman defines Bulgaria as an attractive place for investments in the field of construction, real estate trade and the medical sector. Two days after the big explosion in Beirut, TrafficNews contacted him.
The entrepreneur narrate with great grief about the devastation in his beloved Beirut and the dozens of lives lost. He believes that the main blame for the explosion lies with the government, and that is a resoult of their incompetence.
- Today is a day of mourning in Lebanon, after the terrible tragedy in Beirut. What is the emotion that comes right after the grief for the dozens of victims?
- Today is the worst day in the recent history of Lebanon. We grief for the victims and have a lot of empathy of their families.
As citizens of this country, as private sector, as players in this market, we are devastated by the size of the tragedy, we are chocked by the situation of our capital, by the disaster that was encountered due to this blast, and we are compassionate with all the citizens living or having businesses in our beloved Beirut.
- What is the current situation in the capital? The governor of Beirut compared the devastation to Hiroshima and Nakasaki.
- The capital is devastated, the landmarks are erased from the existence, the economical and logistical infrastructure of Beirut are torn apart. It is the third biggest explosion in the history of the world and the worst part is that it was not made by an enemy but by the ignorance and incompetence of our rulers and our officials. An ignorance that generated loss of souls and destruction of homes and dreams. An ignorance that through the work and persistence of local businesses for years in the trash bin. An incompetence that led our people to depress and just dream of having a home to shelter them. A disaster that was added to all the difficulties and circumstances that our country was facing on the economical and political plans to kill our people’s dreams and ambitions.
It is worse than Hiroshima and Nagasaki because it was self-made and induced by negligence!
- A terrorist attack or an accident, a consequence of someone's negligence? What is the predominant version?
- The predominant version is the negligence and incompetence version. In fact, there is an investigation that is being led by a committee that promised to give results within 5 days. However, the citizens do not trust neither the committee nor the government, and they are afraid to put the blame on small officials, when they are sure that the big shots are the main responsible for this devastating event.
- What is known about this huge amount of ammonium nitrate? Whose property is it, how is it stored?
- There is one version that states that in the last semester of the year 2013, the customs stopped, in the Mediterranean Sea, a ship cruising from Georgia to Mozambique with 2700 tons of ammonium nitrate on board. The “goods” were held in custody and since then it was stored in the hangar number 12 in Beirut Seaport. The true questions remain: Why did we store them for such a long time? Why didn’t we ship them back? Why no one had the initiative to at least take them away from the center of a city where more than 1 million people live? Why did we store with them fireworks? Where are the safety measures? Where is the conscience of our leaders? Were our leaders aware of the existence of these goods? Why didn’t they react? Is there a deal made by keeping them?
A lot of questions being asked, and no answers till now after 2 days of the blast. We hope to have answers anytime soon and that all the responsible officials will be led to justice.
- So far, the authorities have announced 80 people were killed and more than 4,000 injured. What happens in hospitals with this huge number? Are there any missing people?
- Till now we have more then 120 people dead and more then 5000 people injured. The night of the blast we had a huge rush to the hospitals of the capital where people were treated in the corridors and in the parking lots due to the lack of places and beds that were full due to the rush. Till now we still have people missing, we doubt having corpses in the sea and finding them might be very hard. The strength of the blast was tremendous, and it was felt all over the country. Everyone felt as if the explosion was just next to him. Again, God help the families of the victims and of the missing people and God be with the injured people to get well soon.
- The destruction is huge, which are the most damaged buildings?
- All of Beirut is destroyed. We had glass scattered within a radius of 15kms from the center of the blast. The downtown area is totally on the ground, the seaport does not exist anymore and if you circulate within Beirut streets you would feel that a nuclear bomb had hit it and you wouldn’t recognize the Beirut we always knew. Even in the worse time of civil war, the damage in downtown was not that big.
- Lebanon is in a severe economic crisis, it has not yet overcome the consequences of the war. Kovid - The crisis is also seriously injuring the economy and healthcare. The explosion is another blow. Is there a danger of a humanitarian crisis?
- If we don’t get international aid, we will face for sure a humanitarian crisis. We estimate having more then 300,000 people with no shelter today, our stock of flour will not last for more than 3 weeks, and we have no more silos to store them if we buy again. So, Yes, we will have a humanitarian crisis unless the international community overcomes the political struggles, and send all kind of medical, food, and sheltering supplies.
- What are your forecasts for the country's economy? What are your biggest fears?
- In my opinion, we have two scenarios in front of us. The first one is the optimistic scenario whereas we hope that this blast will act as a wakeup call and that the international community will take things in hands and help rebuild our country and put it back on the right track
The second one is the pessimistic scenario where the country will only receive humanitarian help and the government will act as nothing happened and this for me has a very bad prognostic for our country.
Let’s cross fingers for the first scenario because my biggest fear is the implementation of the second scenario, and this will lead to a failed state that will endure for a long time.
- Which countries are in solidarity with Lebanon at this extremely difficult time? What humanitarian aid is needed?
- The only positive note from this blast is that all of our old friends reinstated our friendship again and started sending planes with humanitarian aid. Here I cite France, KSA, UAE, Qatar, USA, Jordan, Iraq… as I said before, the aid needed is medical, food, shelters, construction and renovation materials…
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