Beirut was faced with new misery today when a third fire broke out in a week in a city still ravaged by the catastrophic port explosion that killed nearly 200 people last month.
Clouds of black smoke streamed from the futuristic shopping center designed by Zaha Hadid on the main street that runs past the port in central Beirut.
The cause of the fire is not clear, but firefighters extinguished the bright red flames with water hoses fired by a crane into the smoldering facade of the building.
Separately, there were reports of another fire near a sports facility in Beirut. The footage appeared to show smoke rising near a main road.
The spate of fires over the past week has still frightened a city that following the August 4th explosion that devastated Beirut and sparked a wave of outrage over corruption and incompetence among the Lebanese elite.
As Emmanuel Macron leads efforts to reverse the country, France is on a collision course with Washington, who warned today that the crisis cannot be resolved without addressing Hezbollah arms supplies.
A crowd gathers around the Zaha Hadid-designed mall that caught fire today in Beirut in the third flame that struck the city since the catastrophic explosion in August
On the main street that leads past the harbor where the explosion took place in the center of Beirut, clouds of black smoke streamed from the futuristic shopping center today
The building that caught fire today has been under construction for years, but its curved lattice has become a standout feature of the central business park, which was rebuilt after the 1975-1990 civil war.
During the reconstruction, skyscrapers designed by international architects were built and historic buildings from the Ottoman era were renovated.
But the economic crisis in Lebanon had driven many businesses out of the city center even before the August 4th explosion ruined another part of the capital.
Witnesses at today's crime scene saw fire fighters use a crane to straighten water hoses at the charred facade of the building.
"What was on fire was the insulation that separates the outside from the inside," said a civil protection officer.
"We were able to control the fire in the fastest possible time," he said.
Today's emergency follows a small fire in the port last Tuesday and another major fire on Thursday in a port warehouse that was storing food aid.
Both the explosion and the port fires have rekindled popular outrage against a political class accused of being incapable, corrupt and unable to maintain public safety
Firefighters are lifted by a crane to put out the fire that broke out in Beirut Souks on Tuesday. The cause of the fire is not yet known
People watch firefighters being hoisted in a crane and water hoses directed at the curved grille of the building in Beirut today
The destroyed facade of the building after a fire in what a civil protection official said was the insulation between the inside and the outside of the building
A man inspects the damage while debris hangs on the side of the landmark building
Preliminary government results said sparks from a chainsaw could have caused the fire on Thursday, suggesting a theory that welding was also behind the August 4th explosion.
Greenpeace warned residents to protect themselves from “toxic” smoke following Thursday's fire that broke out in a warehouse that allegedly stored tires.
On Tuesday, local social media users speculated that the cause of the fire in the Zaha Hadid building could also be welding.
Hadid, the British-Iraqi architect who died in 2016, was famous for her architectural work with curved curves in countries around the world.
She was the first woman to win the prestigious Pritzker Prize for Architecture. She became known for her designs for the Guangzhou Opera House in China and the water sports center used at the 2012 London Olympics.
The recent fire has angered the residents of a nation waiting for their politicians to get a grip on the crisis.
& # 39; It's awful. It's incredible, ”said Joe Sayegh, 48, who was jogging around town before arriving. "We have a problem every day."
The wreck lies in front of destroyed grain silos in the port of Beirut three days after the devastating explosion in the Lebanese capital on August 4th
The destroyed port of Beirut can be seen from the air after the explosion in a warehouse that killed almost 200 people
The government resigned after the port explosion, which was due to highly explosive ammonium nitrate, which was kept in poor storage conditions for years.
France urges Lebanon to form a new government to fight endemic corruption and implement reforms to unlock foreign aid.
However, many Lebanese remain skeptical that Lebanon's political elite can embark on a new course.
"Nothing will change with these people if they are the same people," said Sayegh.
While France says the Iran-backed Hezbollah group has a legitimate role in Lebanese politics, the US views it as a terrorist organization.
Hezbollah, which has a parliamentary majority, and its Shiite ally Amal have held senior positions in the last administration, including ministries of health and finance.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned France today that its efforts to resolve the crisis would be in vain without addressing Hezbollah's arms problem.
French officials said the priority was to create a government that could implement reforms quickly.
But the United States increased its sanctions on Lebanon last week by blacklisting two former ministers accused of enabling Hezbollah.
"The United States has taken its responsibility and we will stop Iran from buying Chinese tanks and Russian air defense systems and then selling weapons to Hezbollah (and torpedoing President Macron's efforts in Lebanon," Pompeo told France Inter Radio .
"You cannot allow Iran to have more money, power and weapons while trying to separate Hezbollah from the disasters in Lebanon."
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