Call to safeguard Beirut’s cultural life and heritage

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By Siddhi Jain

New Delhi, Aug 14 (IANSlife) Following the devastating twin explosions in Beirut, Lebanon, on August 4, UN’s culture organisation UNESCO has said it will lead the international mobilisation for the recovery and reconstruction of Beirut’s culture and heritage.

The explosions at the port of Beirut not only claimed hundreds of lives, leaving thousands injured, it also inflicted severe damages to some of Beirut’s most historic neighbourhoods, major museums, galleries and religious sites. The explosion comes at a time when Lebanon was already reeling from a series of other crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

UNESCO mobilised leading cultural organisations and experts from Lebanon and abroad in an online meeting on 10 August to coordinate emergency and longer-term measures to safeguard the city’s severely damaged cultural heritage and rehabilitate its cultural life. The organisation is responding to the Directorate-General of Antiquities of Lebanon’s call for support.

In an initial assessment of damage to cultural institutions and heritage sites in the city, Dr Sarkis Khoury, Director-General of Antiquities at the Ministry of Culture of Lebanon, noted that at least 8,000 buildings, many concentrated in the old districts of Gemmayzeh and Mar-Mikhael, were affected.

Among them are some 640 historic buildings, approximately 60 of which are at risk of collapse.

He also spoke of the impact of the explosion on major museums, such as the National Museum of Beirut, the Sursock Museum and the Archaeological Museum of the American University of Beirut, as well as cultural spaces, galleries and religious sites.

He stressed the need for urgent structural consolidation and waterproofing interventions to prevent further damage from approaching autumn rains. Emergency measures were also invoked to safeguard Beirut’s cultural life through the mobilisation of artists, cultural professionals, artisans and custodians of traditional knowledge.

(Siddhi Jain can be contacted at siddhi.j@ians.in)

–IANS

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