BAALBECK, Lebanon: Unidentified arsonists set a waste sorting plant in east Lebanon on fire overnight Saturday, causing $1 million worth of damage and prompting local authority figures to strongly denounce the incident. Late Saturday night the perpetrators set fire to the waste sorting plant located in the Tal al-Abyad neighborhood, near Baalbeck’s northern entrance, according to a security source. The fire damaged the plant’s contents and equipment as well as a transportation truck parked at the site.
A Civil Defense team led by Baalbeck regional center official Bilal Raad managed to control the fire and extinguish it around 3 a.m.
“There is a concierge who works at the plant and should’ve been present around the clock, but he told us that he wasn’t at the site when the place was set on fire, as he had to drop off his son [somewhere],” Baalbeck Mayor Brig Gen. Hussein Lakkis said at a news conference Sunday.
Lakkis explained that the guard said he was away for around 10 minutes, and when he came back the plant was already on fire.
“We found some evidence on the plant’s floors and outside that confirms that this was a premeditated incident and that it’s not just fate.”
Lakkis said surveillance footage showed a masked individual had attempted to smash the security cameras, adding that they would leave it to the security forces to identify those behind the attack and take action against them.
“According to an estimate by the plant’s director, Samer Zahran, the damage in the plant amounts to around $1 million,” Lakkis added.
He strongly denounced the act, saying it would have negative developmental, environmental, and health implications for the northern Bekaa. He explained that the plant was established to benefit Baalbeck and the surrounding towns and villages.
“The plant was presented as a grant by donors, and there remains a grant to develop the plant, to modernize, expand and equip it, and to establish a landfill,” he said.
“But this incident might negatively affect the response of the donors, and exert some kind of moral pressure on countries to refrain from helping us and from continuing to support us on the several developmental projects that we are in the process of implementing in Baalbeck.”
The waste sorting plant was established in September 2015 in response to the trash crisis that engulfed Lebanon in the summer of that year. Before the plant was established, Baalbeck had only a waste dump.
During its construction, the Lebanese Army guarded the site to protect the valuable equipment, given the relative lack of safety in area. The checkpoint was removed once the site began operating.
“The former municipal council informed us that there was checkpoint by the Lebanese Army to guard the plant but they were removed,” he said. “And despite all the correspondence that the current council has had with the security forces ... to put guards at the plant, the response came back negative.”