The 48-meter-tall, 50-year-old giant silos withstood the force of the blast two years ago, effectively protecting the western part of Beirut from the blast that killed more than 200 people, injured more of 6,000 and severely damaged entire neighborhoods.
In July, a fire broke out in the north block of silos due to grain fermentation. Firefighters and soldiers from the Lebanese army were unable to extinguish the fire which continues to smolder for weeks, releasing odors in nearby towns. The environment and health ministries last week issued instructions to residents living near the port to stay indoors in well-ventilated spaces.
Emmanuel Durand, a French civil engineer who volunteered for the government-mandated team of experts, told The Associated Press that the north block of the silo had already been rocking since the day of the explosion, but that the fire had weakened its fragile structure, hastening its collapse.