Beirut blast: A city ‘ruined in 30 seconds,’ says tearful Lebanese basketball great Fadi El Khatib

Nicknamed the ‘Tiger of Lebanon’, El Khatib has led Lebanon to multiple appearances at the FIBA ​​World Championships. He has won four FIBA ​​Asian Champions Cups for Lebanese clubs Sagesse and Al-Riyadi. He was in Dubai on business on the day of the explosion, but his wife and four children were in Beirut.

“It’s doomed. It’s ruined. It’s damaged. It’s broken. Every house in Beirut,” El Khatib, 41, told CNN Sport in a tearful interview in Beirut.

“Everything we have built … It is ruined in 30 seconds. You have no idea of ​​the damage that has happened in Beirut. The buildings will not stay in a week, because they are damaged, totally broken, the structure is broken.

“ The damage is really more than what people expect ”

The powerful explosion was linked to a massive shipment of ammonium nitrate which authorities say has been stored in the port of Beirut without safety precautions for years, despite warnings from local authorities.

El Khatib is just one of the many Lebanese who are now trying to pick up the pieces of his life.

He owns a sports complex in Beirut – which he says was “ruined” by the explosion – as well as his house and a restaurant.

He estimates that damage to his property could cost him close to “$ 600,000 to $ 700,000” to rebuild. But for now, given what he’s been witnessing in recent days, money is the least of El Khatib’s worries.

“The damage is really more than what people expect. It is bigger than Lebanon,” said the 13-time basketball title winner in Lebanon.

“We are affected not only by our businesses, with the lives we have lost, with our friends we have lost. I lost my friend in front of his children’s eyes. We have lost many Lebanese who believe in Lebanon. They believe in a better tomorrow. “

Lebanese Fadi El Khatib (R) walks past Miroslav Raicevic (L) of Serbia and Montenegro (L) during their Group A preliminary match on day three of the World Basketball Championships in Sendai, prefecture Miyagi, August 21, 2006. Serbia and Montenegro won 104-57.

“We want to work for a better Lebanon”

Recently released documents suggest that several government agencies in Lebanon have been made aware of the ammonium nitrate stored in the port, including the Ministry of Justice.

The information adds to a growing body of evidence, including emails and public court documents, that officials were told of a shipment of thousands of tonnes of ammonium nitrate – described by a Russian analyst as a “floating bomb” – linked to that of Tuesday. catastrophic explosion in the seaside capital.

After the explosion, Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab said it was “unacceptable” for a shipment of around 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate to be stored in a warehouse for six years.

However, documents obtained by CNN show that members of the Lebanese government and the judiciary were told that large amounts of hazardous materials were stored there – and may have failed to protect them.

Lebanese Fadi El Khatib (C) is blocked by Goran Nikolic (L), Mile Ilic (2nd L) and Bojan Popovic (far R) as he heads for the basket during their Group A preliminary round match on day three World Basketball Championship in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, August 21, 2006.

CNN has contacted the Lebanese Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Transport and the Port of Beirut for comment, but received no response.

El Khatib says he has already been nominated for the post of sports minister in Lebanon, but turned down the post because he did not want to “work with corrupt people”. CNN could not verify his appointment.

And he called on politicians across the country to do more to better represent the people of the country.

Fadi El Khatib of Lebanon reacts after their FIBA ​​Basketball World Championship match against Spain in Izmir on September 1, 2010. Spain won the match 91-57.  REUTERS / Sergio Perez (TURKEY - Tags: BASKETBALL SPORT)

“I posted articles on my social media saying, ‘You destroyed us. You have made us poor. You made us live without electricity. “It’s 2020. And we still don’t have electricity. We still don’t have water. We still don’t have business.”

In a recent Instagram post, El Khatib said that “the Lebanese need moral support, but above all meaningful action. May God help all of those whose lives will never be the same after this day.”


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