City of woe
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Meanings are given in BOLD
In October 2019, there was hope in Lebanon. The corruption ( dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery), which was sustained ( continuing for an extended period or without interruption) by an almost feudal ( absurdly outdated or old-fashioned ) political economy, had led to a non-sectarian wave of protests which precipitated ( cause to move suddenly and with force ) the end of Saad Hariri’s tenure as prime minister.
The change in leadership, however, did not lead to a change in the system. The explosion that laid waste to large parts of central Beirut on Tuesday rocked a country that was already going through severe economic turmoil ( a state of great disturbance, confusion, or uncertainty ) and a public health crisis, greatly exacerbated ( make (a problem, bad situation, or negative feeling) worse ) by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Wednesday, the death toll was at least 135, over 5,000 have been injured. Up to 2,50,000 people have been rendered ( provide or give (a service, help, etc.) ) homeless, hospitals are overflowing and there is a real danger of essential supplies to the city being cut off. While the cause of the explosion is still not certain, it appears, prima facie, that negligence ( failure to take proper care over something ), not foul ( wicked or immoral) play or terrorism, could be responsible.
The blast was caused by nearly 3,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, which had been stored for six years at the port after it was seized by customs’ officials. The destruction and loss of life have reminded many Lebanese citizens of the horrors of the civil war that devastated ( destroy or ruin ) the country from 1975 to 1990. This period was followed by sectarianism ( excessive attachment to a particular sect or party, especially in religion ) and an economy that crumbled ( break or fall apart into small fragments, especially as part of a process of deterioration ) under non-performing assets and widespread corruption.
For some time now, even before the pandemic, an IMF economic relief package has been the hope for the citizens of Lebanon. Fortunately, the international community seems to be stepping up. West Asian Arab countries, which had scaled back their economic engagement and support to Beirut due to Iran’s alleged ( said, without proof, to have taken place or to have a specified illegal or undesirable quality ) interference, have come forward with medical supplies.
The US and Western European countries, which had been demanding changes in Lebanon’s polity and economy before offering a bailout ( an act of giving financial assistance to a failing business or economy to save it from collapse ) package, have also stepped in and French President Emmanuel Macron has flown to Beirut to express his support.
This show of solidarity ( unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group ) must continue beyond the short term. For the ruling class in Beirut, reform is now the only option, a responsibility they must fulfil for a people that have already suffered too much.