Beirut firefighter details carnage at Hariri blast site

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Monday, January 27, 2014

A Beirut fire lieutenant who was among the first on the scene of the 2005 explosion that killed 22 people including former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri detailed scenes of carnage as he testified before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) on Monday.

Khaled Toubaili, who led a team of firefighters to the site of the February 14 downtown blast, told The Hague-based court that he had never witnessed such destruction in his 38 years on the job.

"I cannot forget what happened day. It was horrifying," he said.

"When I arrived with my team, it was impossible to see anything ... It was totally black because of the columns of smoke. It was practically impossible for us to breath without the masks."

He said that debris and burning vehicles strewn across the streets prevented the fire trucks from coming too close to the blast site.

The prosecution showed footage of Toubaili's team attempting to extinguish the flames, after which, the witness was asked to pinpoint the location of his firefighters on a miniature model of the blast site.

Toubaili shows the court where his team went to search for injured people on a miniature model of the 2005 Beirut blast site.

"In most cases you only need to use water to extinguish that type of fire," he said. "But [the vehicles in Hariri's convoy] were very hard to extinguish with water, so we had to use foam. And every time we thought we had the fire under control, it would reignite."

The witness explained that Beirut's fire department is divided into three sectors, each one responsible for a certain jurisdiction.

But after arriving to the scene of the blast, Toubaili realized the fires were far too fierce for his team to extinguish alone, and requested that the other two units send all their vehicles and manpower.

Prosecutors are trying four Hezbollah members in absentia over Hariri's assassination. A fifth suspected has also been indicted and is expected to have his cased joined with the other.

Hezbollah has vehemently denied any involvement in the attack, accusing the STL of being a US-Israeli tool set up to discredit the group.

Monday's session was the seventh day of the trial, and the fourth to hear witness testimonies. Last week the court listened to family members of some of the victims describe losing their relatives in sometimes emotionally charged accounts.

Toubaili is expected to resume his testimony on Tuesday.

(Al-Akhbar)

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