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‘I lost everything I did in my life’: Beirut explosion aftermath | Lebanon

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Beirut, Lebanon – “This is greater than anything ever before.” 

It is not the first time I have heard this since we arrived in Beirut.

We are sitting with a government employee, his eyes are heavy, his usual, almost flirtatious energy, totally gone.

He looks tired. In fact, he looks completely broken.

He is broken. He tells us how, for the first time, he now wants his children to leave Lebanon – despite having put them through the best education to stay here. Nothing compared with this – not the years of civil war, assassinations, car bombs – this was different. It is different.

We have all been affected, he tells us. Family died, friends died, homes were blown up and businesses lost.

A sudden, violent blast that sucked the oxygen out of this city and its people.

It has left many gasping for air.

“It came into our homes and took our happiness, our souls,” another woman tells us. She lost her husband in the blast.

She was in the living room, he was in the kitchen. She still does not comprehend how she was unscathed, and he never made it.

“In a few seconds, I lost everything I did in my life, my house, my business. But all that can be fixed – but my love? For what? For nothing?”

The shops and restaurants are shuttered. Hamra, Mar Mikhail, Gemayzee – the few businesses that survived the economic crisis now blown to pieces.

‘Everything is gone’

A Lebanese friend, who had just returned after the explosion told me how depressed he was – he is of the civil war generation.

“Everything is gone – places, even people. There is nothing to be attached to any more.”

Many feel that way. They have lost family, friends, homes, businesses. Everyone has a story. Few people have much hope right now.

We visit a hospital where a forensic doctor has been busy identifying the bodies of those killed in the explosion. We discuss what state the bodies are in, what he has seen – how he feels.

“I’m taking it badly,” he tells us. 

“We were already struggling with corona,” he says, “and the economical situation, the political situation, too many things. This is very stressful for the Lebanese people – and then this explosion came.”

While we talk to him, bodies are carried back and forth behind us. One wrapped in black, one in white sheeting, and basic coffins.

Death hangs in the air.

He continues: “I think, until now, there is no real reaction. What you see is a stupor, people are still in stupor regarding their dead, regarding the country, regarding what is happening. And probably they are under stress syndrome, post-trauma stress syndrome – that will take some time, one year to appear.”

He tells us that usually when there is an explosion in Lebanon, people rush to hospital emergency rooms – mobbing them and they have to hire security to be able to do their jobs.

“Yes they came, of course – but they stayed outside by themselves. It’s as if they wanted to know the truth – but at the same time they didn’t.”

‘Feeling emptiness’

Denial or shock. The magnitude of what has happened here is difficult to comprehend.

Saleem is a diving instructor. He volunteered with the rescue in the early days. I ask him how he felt when he first approached the port from the sea, heading to look for survivors.

“I think the real feeling was…” he pauses to think of the right word. “The real feeling was emptiness, seeing all this.”

It was chaos in these early days – and the visibility in the crater was zero … They had to feel their way with their hands.

He contemplates the bigger picture. He, like many of his generation – fought in the civil war and is no stranger to violence, to death, to political chaos.

“What happened is very big.”

He too tells us that this is bigger than anything ever before.

“You know you have the capital of a country that is totally destroyed. I don’t know how many years we need. You know Lebanon is passing through an economical situation that is very hard. We have problems with the international bank, and we have problems with the exchange rate, and 60-70 percent of people are not working, nobody can eat, salaries are bad, we have to deal with corona, and we have the revolution. And now we have this?”

“Will Beirut recover?” I ask him.

“Yes, the buildings will recover. The people I don’t know. If they stay – maybe in like 20, 30, 40 years – because if you make a small calculation, nobody really recovered from the war of ’75 yet. If they are still living, and nobody recovered from the war of the ’80s and ’90s, and 2006. It’s hidden somewhere, you just need like a click and it will pop up. I don’t think it will be easy to recover. This is a big thing. It’s a big thing.”

I blame the whole state’

But there is strength. And there is humour. And there is incredible solidarity between people coming together to help each other.

Feeding each other, providing shelter, patching up this shattered city. Any real official help on the ground has been notably absent.

We interview a family who is still waiting for news of their husband, their father, more than two weeks on. He worked at the silos and was in the operation room at the time of the blast.

After speaking to his wife and his son, we finish filming. I talk to his daughter. She is 19, so eloquent, smart, and beautiful.

I tell her how amazingly strong she is and how I do not think I would have been able to keep it together if it were me in this situation.

She tells me she used to think that she could not either, but it is different when it happens to you, she says. You find the strength.

Later that night, the family gets word that their father and husband was identified.

“I blame the whole state, I blame the politicians,” his wife told us earlier.

We attend the funeral. It is unbearably sad. His elderly mother strokes his coffin, her face creased in pain.

We can see a picture of him on her chest, held in place by her jacket. Close to her heart. No mother should have to bury their child.

His son wants an independent investigation, he wants answers.

He stands stoic but his eyes burn with pain, as his mother and sisters shake with grief.

Many here say they want answers, but in the same breath, they add they believe the truth of what happened will never come out.

Justice is another thing they question. Most people we speak to blame the entire system. 

They say the explosion was the ultimate, incomprehensible symbol of decades of mismanagement, corruption and negligence – of power in the hands of a few – and admit it will be very difficult to change.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million

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Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe

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A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.



Source – observer.ug

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News

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Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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