Friday, August 18, 2006

Return to Dahiyeh

More than 15,000 homes were destroyed during the bombing campaign in Lebanon. The Dahiyeh suburb of Beirut , a stronghold for the Hezbollah party, suffered a lot of damage during the bombing campaign. Many of the people who lived in it sought shelter in other parts of Beirut or outside of the city completely. Three days after the ceasefire, many have returned home to see what is left of their apartments. The bulk of people in Beirut live in high-rise buildings, either renting or owning apartments. While many buildings are destroyed completely, some of the apartments that were adjacent to targets are partially habitable. RI interviewed several families on the third day of the ceasefire as they returned to see what was left of their homes.



This woman shows us the view from her kitchen door on the fifth floor that used to open onto a balcony; it now opens onto a pile of rubble from the building next door. Dust, broken glass, and noxious fumes fill their apartment. “I was here during the bombings – I hid in the bathroom and shook. I was terrified. Finally I fled and I am glad since they bombed the building next door the next day. There was a man who owned four shops in that building and now they are all gone” she told RI.

Many of the buildings had huge holes blown into the walls – either as a result of the bomb blast or from flammable tanks of gas stored on their balconies that ignited when the buildings next door were hit. While it is the dry season in Lebanon, they worry about the coming rains and about the fumes coming into their houses. As people return home to clean up their apartments, they are relying on generators for electricity and bringing in water by hand as many of the reservoirs were destroyed by the bombing



Mohammed, a businessman who owns a factory in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, showed us his apartment in a building adjacent to one destroyed by the bombing. “We were living in a hotel in the Hamra part of town,” he tells RI, “but we are running out of money. We may come back here to sleep tonight with my mother and my four children.” While they are cleaning up the piles of broken glass from the explosions, there is also a thick layer of dust and ash covering everything. “I think there may still be people who were in that building,” his wife tells us, “There are terrible smells that come in here.”

Many people are reluctant to leave their apartments since they have no other place to go. While the Hezbollah political party has offered them help in rebuilding, there are fears that the poor – who do not have the means to rebuild and wait to be reimbursed will take the chance to live in structurally unsound places while waiting to be assisted. There are also concerns about who will assist the people who are not living in Hezbollah areas. Hezbollah has said that they will assist them but to date there is little word from the government of Lebanon on plans to assist people and the population has little confidence in the government.

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