The Lebanese government has not made use of its available disaster response resources and therefore hindered the country’s recovery from the widespread destruction caused by the explosion in Beirut last week, an insider source has revealed.
The government, which has long been accused of negligence and corruption, has faced further criticism in the wake of the deadly Beirut blasts that killed at least 171 people after highly explosive ammonium nitrate exploded in the city’s port.
Despite the blasts causing damage potentially exceeding $15 billion, an insider source told Al Arabiya English that the Minister of Defense Zeina Akar had dismissed the operations of the National Operation Room (NOR) at the Grand Serail, which would usually be activated by the Disaster Risk Management Unit (DRM) to help recover from a crisis.
"NOR is automatically activated for any disaster and it is not something that is offered or that the government decides whether they want it or not. Zeina Akar has opted for it not to take place, and thus hindered a natural operations process," said the source, who asked to remain anonymous.
DRM is a unit at the Presidency of the Council of Ministers launched in 2010 in partnership with the United Nations Development Program and is set up to manage crises and support governments in disaster risk reduction. The unit supports the government in developing a disaster risk reduction strategy based on four elements: Prevention, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery.
The DRM launched Lebanon’s Covid-19 operations room to implement pandemic preparedness and response plans back in March 2020.
An operations room is usually set by the DRM automatically after a national or international disaster occurs, and representatives from all forces start working alongside with volunteers.
The operations room that was set to launch for Beirut blasts was headed by Major General Mahmoud Al Asmar, which means the Minister was fully aware of its existence at the time and yet approved of its operations at first, and then changed the decision the following day, on August 5, 2020.
Political analysts said that the decision to dismiss the support from the DRM was another sign of weak governance and questioned why the minister had rejected it.