The Daily Star (Lebanon)

Mys­tery fis­sures cause panic in vil­lage of Bis­sarieh

- By Mo­hammed Zaatari

BIS­SARIEH, Le­banon: Cit­i­zens of the quaint south­ern vil­lage of Bis­sarieh are cur­rently liv­ing in a state of panic and ap­pre­hen­sion af­ter land­slides and cracks in the roads have dam­aged in­fra­struc­ture and are threat­en­ing their homes.

Deep fis­sures in the roads lead­ing to the vil­lage have emerged. Res­i­dents worry that some of the cracks threaten to un­der­mine the foun­da­tions of build­ings in the area and they fear the struc­tures could col­lapse at any mo­ment. Com­pound­ing res­i­dents’s fears is the fact that the cause of the dam­age is un­known.

En­gi­neers who have looked at the is­sue sus­pect it is the re­sult of a sud­den up­welling of sub­ter­ranean springs, caus­ing a shift in the soil. The dam­age has left the area look­ing more like a disas­ter zone than the pic­turesque vil­lage it once was.

“We heard a loud noise ... we thought it was an ex­plo­sion so we hid in the closet at home,” 10-year-old Zainab Hi­jazi told The Daily Star.

The road to Hi­jazi’s neigh­bor­hood ap­peared like a scene straight out of a war zone. At the en­trance of the area, two fis­sures have emerged where the road once was. One is a me­ter across with the other is about 30 cen­time­ters. On ei­ther side of the fis­sures the earth has shifted, threat­en­ing the foun­da­tions of around 10 nearby build­ings.

To­ward the cen­ter of the neigh­bor­hood a large crater has al­ready de­stroyed part of one build­ing. This large fis­sure is more than a 100 me­ters wide and sev­eral me­ters deep.

Res­i­dents have fled the area. “As you can see the crack has cut through the road next to my house and we fear that the build­ing will col­lapse,” Mo­ham­mad Ham­moud, who lives next to a fis­sure, told The Daily Star. “I re­quest [Trans­port and Pub­lic Works Min­is­ter Ghazi] Zeaiter to com­mis­sion ex­perts to ex­am­ine what has hap­pened and to shore up the ter­rain, as it is a mat­ter of life and death.”

Zeaiter in­spected the neigh­bor­hood and asked cit­i­zens to va­cate houses im­me­di­ately due to the risks they pose. “I re­quest and hope that cit­i­zens of the area leave im­me­di­ately as the scene we are wit­ness­ing is very dan­ger­ous,” Zeaiter said. “I saw one build­ing com­pletely tilt­ing while an­other was on the verge of col­lapse,” he added. The min­is­ter also promised res­i­dents that ad­e­quate lodg­ing would be se­cured un­til the mat­ter was dealt with.

Zahrani MP Ali Os­seiran also called for fi­nan­cial repa­ra­tions for the area’s res­i­dents and the re­lease of mu­nic­i­pal funds to cover the cost and the in­ter­ven­tion of the Higher Re­lief Com­mit­tee.

“We re­quest that the com­mit­tee ful­fill its role and re­spond quickly as we are in win­ter and af­flicted citi- zens can­not bear be­ing out of their homes be­cause of the ex­treme cold,” Os­seiran said in a state­ment. “We also re­quest the re­lease of the mu­nic­i­pal fund so that the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties can ful­fill their role in com­pen­sat­ing res­i­dents ... the re­lease will also al­low the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties of sev­eral im­pov­er­ished vil­lages and towns bet­ter deal with nat­u­ral dis­as­ters.”

Zeaiter vowed that his min­istry would re­spond to the disas­ter.

“The min­istry will im­me­di­ately ini­ti­ate a sur­vey of the area in or­der to study this phe­nom­e­non and un­der­stand the rea­sons be­hind it,” he an­nounced, promis­ing that so­lu­tions would fol­low. “We need dras­tic so­lu­tions, al­though land­slides have oc­curred in the past, the cur­rent scale is un­prece­dented.”

He an­nounced that he had con­tacted Maj. Gen. Mo­ham­mad Kheir, the head of the Higher Re­lief Com­mit­tee, to brief him on the is­sue and has re­quested that he de­clare a state of emer­gency for the area.

Zeaiter also promised that he would re­lay the case to Prime Min­is­ter Tam­mam Salam in or­der to mo­bi­lize political sup­port across all lev­els so that the is­sue is dealt with.

 ??  ?? Build­ings ap­pear to be close to col­lapse as the ground shifts.
Build­ings ap­pear to be close to col­lapse as the ground shifts.

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