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Fire in Beirut commercial district leaves residents rattled

Click to play video: '‘Unbelievable’: Another fire near Beirut port unnerves residents' ‘Unbelievable’: Another fire near Beirut port unnerves residents
WATCH ABOVE: Another fire near Beirut port unnerves residents – Sep 15, 2020

BEIRUT – A fire erupted in a landmark building in Beirut‘s commercial district on Tuesday, the second blaze this month to send shudders through a capital still in shock after a massive port blast in August ripped through the Mediterranean city.

Read more: Beirut explosion: Lebanese president knew of explosive material stockpile

There were no immediate reports of casualties and the blaze was quickly extinguished, but it left residents exasperated in a nation that has been hammered by a deep economic crisis and which is waiting for its politicians to form a new government.

“It’s terrible. It’s unbelievable,” said Joe Sayegh, 48, who had been on a jog through the city before coming to the scene. “Every day we have a problem.”

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Fire trucks quickly doused the flames that charred a corner of the futuristic building designed by the practice set up by the late Zaha Hadid, the renowned British-Iraqi architect.

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The building near the seafront which has been under construction for years and its curved lines have become a prominent feature of the central commercial area rebuilt from the 1975-1990 civil war.

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During the reconstruction, skyscrapers designed by international architects have gone up and historical Ottoman-era buildings have been renovated.

But protests during an economic crisis that was caused by a mountain of debt had already driven many businesses out of the city center and left many buildings scarred, before the Aug. 4 port blast ruined another swathe of the capital.

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Search for survivors continues after Beirut blast – Aug 5, 2020

The government resigned after the port blast, which was blamed on highly explosive ammonium nitrate kept in poor storage conditions for years. This month, a big port fire flared up among the ruined warehouses, adding to the devastation.

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Read more: What the Beirut blast might’ve looked like in Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal

France is pressing Lebanon to form a new government to tackle endemic corruption and implement reforms to unlock aid. But many Lebanese remain skeptical that Lebanon’s political elite can chart a new course.

“With these people, if they are the same people, nothing will change,” Sayegh said.

— Additional reporting by Tom Perry; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Ed Osmond

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