The latest blast to hit yet another commercial neighbourhood of the Lebanese capital, Beirut, has been a blow to local businesses, costing them around $50 million in losses, according to Lebanese officials.
A powerful explosion rocked Lebanon on Tuesday after weeks of calm, bringing fear and chaos to the country’s capital. The bomb injured eight people, but there were no fatalities.
The blast went off in Zalka, one of the capital’s Christian suburbs and a mixed residential and commercial area on a main street that leads to Lebanon's Christian heartland.
Shop owners have been hard hit. Liza Mohayaian, who works in the Vero Moda clothes store, arrived at work to find the shop and its stock destroyed, costing thousands of US dollars to replace.
“It is a terrorist and cowardly attempt to shake the Lebanese people’s faith and scare away tourists by targeting market places and crowded areas,” she said, amid the smoking ruins of her shop.
These shops were not the only ones to suffer. The Zalka area teems with restaurants and cafes that are usually filled with customers.
In fact, the neighbourhood is showing surprising resilience and two days after the explosion, as shops and restaurants re-opened as usual.
But with the border truck crisis with Syria barely over and people still recovering from previous blasts, the latest blow to the Lebanese summer season may have caused more damage than is immediately apparent.
Zalka and the similarly targeted areas were main spots for tourists from the neighbouring Gulf States and the lack of security in the country has caused a sharp decrease in the number of visitors, which will have a negative affect on the country’s economy, officials said.
In the immediate aftermath of the latest blast, Health Minister Mohammed Khalifeh issued a statement telling hospitals to treat all injured patients at the expense of the government.
In terms of compensation, the government assessed the damage incurred by each shop and will allot the necessary funds. But this process could take several months and there have been claims that no funds have been given to those who suffered.
“There is a special fund for compensation but it hasn’t been used yet,” said a spokesman for the prime minister’s office. He declined to comment further.
According to security sources, the bomb was placed in the car park of Hotel Promenade, near the Moussa shopping centre. It was unclear who the bomb was targeting. A series of bombings has hit Lebanon since the February assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri on 14 February.
This is the seventh bomb to hit a Christian commercial neighbourhood. The series of attacks began on Easter Sunday this year and affected the predominantly Christian neighbourhoods of Jdeideh, Kaslik, Jounieh, Broummana, Achrafieh and Sad al-Baouchrieh.