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    Homage paid in Brussels to Beirut disaster victims

    Brussels mayor Philippe Close (left) joins mourners. © Twitter

    A group of around 150 people yesterday held a small gathering outside the Lebanese embassy in Brussels in memory of the victims of the Beirut disaster.

    Two huge explosions on Tuesday in the port of the Lebanese capital killed at least 157 people and injured more than 5,000 – and the search continues for further victims in the devastated port area.

    In addition, at least 250,000 people have been made homeless, in a country that was on the brink of economic disaster before the incident took place. The blast caused an estimated €12.6 billion worth of damage.

    At the gathering in Brussels, which was organised according to the rules of social distancing, people sang the Lebanese national anthem and displayed the Lebanese flag.

    Brussels-City mayor Philippe Close laid a wreath on behalf of the city. “Our thoughts are with the families of the victims,” he tweeted later.

    Meanwhile the city opened a condolences book in the City Hall on the Grand Place. Visitors will be able to write their messages until next week, after which the book will be delivered to the Lebanese ambassador.

    One of the organisers of the embassy vigil, Tarek En Halabi, explained what had brought people together.

    The purpose of this tribute is to show our solidarity,” he said. “We think of the victims, of their families, of the Lebanese on the ground. We are not critics today. Above all, we want to be strong and united. That is our message, a message from the heart. Let us try to help where possible, wherever we may be.”

    Meanwhile another spontaneous expression of compassion towards Beirut has sprung up on the Place de la Bourse in front of the former Stock Exchange, which became an unofficial locus of national mourning in 2016 following the bomb attacks in Zaventem and Brussels.

    Visitors have chalked messages on the ground, as they did back then, and arrayed flowers, flags and photos. Brussels police have approved the action, providing mourners number no more than 15 at any one time.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times