The Daily Star (Lebanon)
Mystery fissures cause panic in village of Bissarieh
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.