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How the Displaced residents of Achrafieh explosion are navigating compensation?

Victims of Friday’s Ashrafieh bombing, staying in hotels while their homes are inaccessible, expressed a mix of appreciation for officials’ efforts and confusion over the process of repairing their apartments.

Alex Taylor published in The Daily Star on Oct. 24, 2012:

BEIRUT: Sarah Abi Saab, 22, has been displaced since Friday when the car bomb that killed senior intelligence official Wissam al-Hassan and two others exploded at the entrance of the parking garage of her building.

She is now staying at the nearby Hotel Alexandre and was able to access her apartment Tuesday for the first time since the blast.

She returned to a scene of disarray where “not just the glass but the metal frames [of windows] had fallen out and everything was on the opposite side of the room, even the doors.”

“Everything was on the floor,” said Abi Saab, who lives alone in the apartment while she finishes school at the Lebanese American University in Jbeil.

The Higher Relief Committee began meeting Monday with Abi Saab and other residents of Ibrahim Monzer Street, the site of the explosion.

According to operations coordinator Elie Khoury, the HRC had registered residents of 59 apartments by the end of Tuesday and distributed $1,000 to every family living on the main street of the explosion.

“Today we finished processing all the families living on the street where the explosion occurred and have given out cash for rent to those families,” Khoury said.

Khoury could not yet estimate the total cost of the damage, nor when residents in the blast zone would be able to return to their apartments, as HRC teams are still surveying the damage.

“The engineering studies are still ongoing – can the buildings be renovated or do they need to be demolished? We have not been able to determine yet,” Khoury said of the five buildings at the center of the blast.

Abi Saab was at home Friday afternoon when the bomb exploded.

“I was sleeping on the bed and heard a boom. I woke up all of the sudden and a wind of glass just came over me,” she said.

Luckily she was not injured except for minor cuts on her legs and feet.

Although she was able to enter her building briefly Tuesday, Abi Saab wasn’t allowed to collect her possessions and had to be escorted by police as the criminal investigation into Friday’s bomb is ongoing.

Abi Saab said she had received $1,000 from the HRC to pay for temporary accommodations, but was facing difficulties registering her case for damages because her immediate family live outside Lebanon, in the United States and Cyprus.

“We had to fill out papers, but they wouldn’t accept my signature because the house is in my mom’s name. They need a lot of documents, papers and IDs but I didn’t have them because they’re all trapped in the building,” the student explained.

“I’m the only one that is responsible for the house and the papers. If I don’t get it done, they won’t come check the house.”

Various government officials have told the residents different timelines regarding when they may be able to access their homes.

“I wish there was more transparency,” said Zeina Nehme, a resident of the same building, who says different officials have told her she will either be able to enter her apartment within a day or not for a week.

“If only they would tell us on these few days, from this time to this time, we’ll be going to the apartments and checking on the damages … because now we’re getting different answers.”

Nehme, who works as a visiting university professor, recently returned to Lebanon for the year after working abroad for a long period. She was teaching Friday afternoon, but her elderly parents were in the building at the time of the explosion, escaping relatively unscathed.

“Nobody died in the building. It was a miracle,” Nehme said.

Nehme and other displaced residents have been given free hotel rooms in Hotel Alexandre for a week, personally paid for by Telecommunications Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui and other Free Patriotic Movement officials.

“I thank everybody for their help and for putting us up in this hotel. But we want to go home,” Zeina said.

Nehme is anxious to salvage what remains in her apartment, which she was only able to access with police escort for a few minutes Tuesday to retrieve medicines for her parents.

“The weather is changing and it’s going to start raining. We need to go start fixing and cleaning,” she said.

Despite confusion over proceeding with the HRC, Abi Saab said she was impressed by the response of ordinary Lebanese citizens to the bombing.

“Leave the politicians out. The Lebanese people and youth, they really surprised me, they had donations coming in, they’re holding a concert [to raise money] and they have gathered lists of what we need,” she said.

“I’m very, very proud.”

 A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 24, 2012, on page 4.

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(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::




March 2023

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