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Lebanon crisis

Life comes to a halt in Lebanon as blackouts sweep the nation

Published: Updated:

Lebanon’s worsening fuel crisis has reached a painful crunch point, with bakeries, businesses and hospitals either scaling back operations or shutting down completely, making life even harder for Lebanese already enduring a financial meltdown.

As the fuel oil that powers Lebanon has disappeared from the market, Lebanese have sweltered at home in the summer heat without light or AC, routinely tossing out the contents of fridges while having to set aside hours to fill up the car - if increasingly scarce gasoline can be found.

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Many say living conditions are worse than during the 1975-90 civil war.

A view shows Beirut's seaside promenade Corniche in darkness during a partial blackout in Beirut, Lebanon August 10, 2021. (Reuters)
A view shows Beirut's seaside promenade Corniche in darkness during a partial blackout in Beirut, Lebanon August 10, 2021. (Reuters)

It marks a new low in the financial crisis that erupted in late 2019, the result of decades of corruption and mismanagement by a ruling elite that has failed to find solutions as more than half the population has sunk into poverty.

In the latest policy failure, the government is sparring with the central bank over its decision to end fuel subsidies, a step that would spell sharply higher prices.

While the stand-off continues, importers told Reuters the country faced a huge shortage of fuel.

“During the civil war, even with how horrible it was, there weren’t any power cuts,” said Hassan Khalife, 50, who owns a small barbecue joint near parliament in Beirut.

Hassan Khalife, 50, owner of a small barbecue joint, gestures during an interview with Reuters, in Beirut, Lebanon August 10, 2021. (Reuters)
Hassan Khalife, 50, owner of a small barbecue joint, gestures during an interview with Reuters, in Beirut, Lebanon August 10, 2021. (Reuters)

“The state, which is supposed to take care of its people, is doing the opposite, it’s trying to humiliate us as much as it can,” he said.

Khalife has downgraded from three refrigerators to one, which he powers via a line from a neighbor’s generator that whirrs loudly across the street.

“We’ve become used to the sound, it’s like hearing birds or something,” he said.

On Wednesday, Lebanon’s electricity minister told reporters that the country needs 3,000 megawatts of power but only has enough fuel to produce 750. People say they get one or two hours of electricity from the grid per day, if any.

Read more:

Lebanon’s prime minister rejects president’s call for fuel crisis meeting

Lebanon says importers must supply stored fuel bought before subsidy end

Angry residents block Lebanon’s roads after central bank lifts fuel subsidies