LibanPost Responds: The Postal Worker’s Story
The following is part two of UPU’s series on how LibanPost dealt with the 4 August explosion in Beirut
Mohammad Fakro’s daily delivery route takes him through the heart of the destruction caused by the port explosion in the Lebanese capital. Mangled steel and shattered glass now replace the buildings he used to once deliver to. Many of the regular clients are either dead or displaced.
August 4th was like any other day for Mohammad, he started early and picked up the mail for his route from the Riad Solh branch in downtown Beirut –– one of the LibanPost branches that later that day would be all but totally destroyed.
His route would take him through the upmarket downtown area, over to the port, past the slaughterhouse and on towards Karantina, a deprived area facing the port that felt the brunt of the blast. At 2pm his shift would finish. Just after 6pm, his route would explode.
After Liban Post’s three day closure following the blast, his first shift back was one like no other.
“I’d ask the people in the streets, ‘where is this person now?’ And they would tell me he had died in the explosion, for example, or that he is in the hospital or that he has travelled, he has escaped [the country]. Words that are just… very saddening.
I used to see a man who was a doorman at the building of one of my regulars; someone told me he and his entire family died in the explosion. It was him and his two daughters.”
It wasn’t just a matter of checking on his regular clients, Mohammad was trying to deliver post to buildings that no longer existed and to people who had fled overnight to other parts of the country, he said.
“If there are phone numbers linked to the address, we’ll speak to them to deliver their stuff,” he explained. “But otherwise, we would rely on neighbours to direct us to their new location or put it in a secure location until they got in touch. But we would keep trying their building every day [if it was still standing].”
The blast, however, had made many of the remaining buildings unstable.
“Honestly there were one or two buildings that I went into... I noticed that, in the entrance of the building, because of the power of the explosion, it looked as though the walls had been sucked right off. I honestly felt like the ground was unstable when I was walking.”
“Those of us who’ve gone up the stairs always run back down and out because we’re afraid the buildings’ supports will collapse.”
In the initial stages, Mohammad explained, it was often easier to find the customers as they would be moving their things out of their homes and offices or making repairs. For some though, they have still not found a new address if neighbours cannot point in the right direction and they haven’t called LibanPost to redirect their mail.
Mohammad’s personal life, like most Lebanese, was already devastatingly impacted by the economic collapse only to be compounded by the explosion.
The local currency has lost over 80 per cent of its value over the last year and by some experts’ estimations, Lebanon has become the first Middle East/North African country to ever officially enter hyperinflation. There was little money to survive; for most, there is no money to rebuild.
“We’re waiting to see if people can help us and provide aid. I’m renting the house but the landlord said he’s unable to help me with anything or pay for any damage; he said he takes the rent and has to pay that money elsewhere as he has expenses. You know these things are expensive. Everyone is going through this.”
Mohammad had been at his home, which faces the port, with his wife and two children when the explosion happened. Tearing apart the glass in his apartment and material objects inside.
“There are some things that I’ve fixed in the house because we can’t be without them, like the glass. I paid for it; I took out a loan to fix it. But I cannot do much else, I have to pay for rent and schooling and bills.”
By Abbie Cheeseman, freelance journalist, Beirut, Lebanon.