By Mohammed Zaatari
Daily Star staff
SIDON: The residents of an area in Sidon miraculously escaped death when a warehouse in one of the buildings on Dr. Ghassan Hammoud Street caught fire due to a short-circuit in the system. Most of the junk-like plastic material, empty gas tanks, old clothes, metal and aluminum, steel plates, and other flammable things burned late Wednesday night inside the warehouse located on the ground floor of Hashisho building.
Members of the Civil Defense and firemen struggled for three hours to put off the fire. The director of the Civil Defense in South Lebanon, Jean Khreish, said "since the fire was huge, tractors from Sidon Municipality were used to tear down the walls and get inside the warehouse."
"We were afraid that the fire would reach the upper floors," he added.
The warehouse in this eight-storey building is a public property and was turned in 1979 into a warehouse for food supplies used by one of the Palestinian groups.
However, in 1982, with the Israeli invasion, the Palestinians fled and this warehouse was used by Salim and Jamal Burshalli, two Palestinian brothers, who operate a business from the junk.
The warehouse had started to take a toll out on the residents in the building four years ago and asked Salim to clear it. Even when the warehouse didn't fit, Salim stored more junk just outside the building in on an annexed little piece of land.
Bassam Ghorabli, who lives on the first floor said he wasn't against the brothers making business out of this junk, "but we noticed that some of the stuff, like food cans, are over 25 years old."
He added that the residents filed a complaint about a year and a half ago, and the little piece of land was cleaned, but the warehouse remained as it is.
Thursday morning, a police patrol from the Sidon municipality accompanied by many tractors and trucks came by the building and warned Salim to empty the warehouse immediately or else he would be penalized.
Salim immediately started to clear out what he could and when speaking with The Daily Star, he denied the stuff was that old.
However, what is more surprising is that his youn-ger brother Jamal, who lives in the opposite building, has turned his house into another junk warehouse.
Jamal, a poor and sick man, sleeps in the entrance of his house because he doesn't have a bedroom to sleep in. Used car batteries, and other junk have filled his house making it smell of acid. The Daily Star was barely let inside the house, but listened to Jamal as he complained how the UNRWA doesn't help him.
Sidon's municipality issued a statement warning people who own warehouses from storing any inflammable things. The municipality police was entrusted to monitor the warehouse to check for any violations.
Speaking also with The Daily Star, Sidon's Mayor Abdel-Rahman Bizri said that what happened was a "warning" for other warehouse owners.
He said that "strict measures should be taken with them." Bizri said that the municipality is waiting for permission from the Public Prosecution office in South Lebanon "to enter Jamal's house and clear it from all the junk that has been rotting there for almost 25 years now."