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Tripoli rises from the ashes
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TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Residents were still coming to terms with the aftermath of the twin explosions that rocked this northern Lebanese city, as assessments of the damage were concluded and authorities prepared to rebuild and defy the destruction.

Nearly 700 apartments were damaged in Fridays bombings that claimed at least 47 lives and wounded hundreds, according to an initial assessment by the Higher Relief Council, which published Sunday an overall tally of the material carnage from the bombings.

The twin car bombs near the Al-Taqwa and Al-Salam mosques damaged 300 cars, one school, 56 residential buildings, 57 businesses and shops, and four restaurants and cafes, according to a statement by the HRC.

Most of the damage to the residential buildings was in the form of shattered glass windows as a result of the explosion. The agency said the overall damage to the buildings varied from minor to completely burned down.

It also stressed that a final death toll was not yet available due to the gruesome nature of the attack.

The number of victims is not exactly defined until this moment as a result of the complete burning of some bodies and the presence of many unidentified body parts, the HRC said.

Ibrahim Bashir, the HRCs secretary-general, said the agency would work as fast as possible to complete its humanitarian and social assistance mission in Tripoli.

The work of the agency is for the benefit of all the Lebanese with no exception or discrimination, he said in a statement.

Bashir said he was ordered by the caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati to carry out an assessment of apartments whose residents were forced to leave due to extensive damage. The assessment was completed Sunday.

He said the agency would probably begin paying an accommodation allowance for these individuals starting Tuesday.

He added that the agency would soon provide an estimate of the value of the damage.

Meanwhile, Tripolis residents began coming to terms with the massacre that engulfed their city.

The local municipality, civil society and NGOs began in the early hours of Sunday efforts to clear the damage from the car bombs amid a heavy security and military presence throughout the city, particularly near the Abu Ali and Abdul-Hamid Karami roundabouts, the neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh, the port and the main thoroughfares leading into the city.

Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya, the local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, joined in local relief efforts through its youth and medical societies. Volunteers helped clear the rubble and clean streets, homes and mosques damaged in the attacks, and a group delegation visited the wounded in local hospitals.

Local emergency personnel set up gathering points to treat wounds in addition to visiting homes in the vicinity of the bombings to help families fill damage assessment forms.

Funeral processions for the victims of the attacks began Saturday following noon prayers, with Muslim chants of Allahu Akbar coinciding with the mourning bells of the local churches in a moment of solidarity for the citys embattled residents.

Civil society representatives met with Muslim and Christian religious leaders, who agreed to broadcast Quranic readings and to ring church bells in unison Sunday afternoon in mourning and condemnation of the attack.

Tripoli remained calm Saturday and Sunday except for occasional gunfire in the inner city, particularly near the neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh, which has seen repeated clashes in recent months between militants loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and gunmen who support the uprising against his rule.

Most shops and businesses remained closed amid an official mourning period in most of north Lebanon.

Cranes brought in by the Lebanese Army worked to remove the remains of cars from the site of the explosion near Al-Salam mosque, as forensics teams swept the area and marked the damaged vehicles.

Security forces asked owners of cars damaged in the bombings to visit the crime scene and reclaim their vehicles.

Life returned today to Tripoli through civil society which united to face this tragedy that befell the city, Hala Fadel, the wife of MP Robert Fadel, said during a tour of the scene of the attack. They all came down to clear the rubble and clean the street and from here we reaffirm that Tripoli is still alive.

The losses were very great but the material tragedy is nothing compared to lives, said Bassem Douk, who owns a local cafe and was praying inside one of the mosques when the bomb exploded.

Thank God I was saved, he said.

Local police and municipal officials held coordination meetings to organize relief and reconstruction efforts at the damaged mosques without interfering with the investigations.

Nader Ghazal, the head of Tripolis municipality, said he called a meeting of the citys municipal council to approve compensation for the victims and families affected by the bombings.

Ghazal said that municipality employees were ready to donate a portion of their salaries toward the compensation efforts.

He also called on local construction companies to assist in the rebuilding efforts by putting their machinery at the citys disposal.

MP Bahia Hariri said Sunday that former Prime Minister Saad Hariri would assist in the reconstruction of the damaged Tripoli neighborhoods.

Just like he [Hariri] helped in Abra, he will help in Tripoli, Hariri told reporters during her visit to the city when asked whether the head of the Future Movement would donate to construction efforts in the city.

We will work with the municipality and civil society groups as well as the youth to form a committee to swiftly aid the residents who were forced out of their homes, she said.

Repairs in the Abra neighborhood in Sidon, which witnessed fierce clashes between the Army and Salafist gunmen in June, were financed partly through a donation by the former prime minister.

Youth from the Future Movement also organized a solidarity march from Al-Taqwa Mosque through Tripolis streets all the way to Al-Salam Mosque.

source By Antoine Amrieh