The Long Road to Recovery for Lebanon

With extensive infrastructure damage and looming energy crisis, the damage could take years to repair

Down on the ground, the destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure wrought by Israeli air strikes is a study of scripted chaos. Pilots have paid particular attention to the country’s bridges, knocking out over 80% of them, according to the Lebanese government — even some comically small ones. The bridge at Gharife Bayzoun in the Chouf Mountains, for example, couldn’t have had more than a 15 ft. span over a dry creek. But when the Israelis took it out two days ago, they also cut a water main that fed some 45 villages in the Kharrob district. “They have no way of getting water, from here all the way to the eastern part of Sidon,” said Ghaleb Abu Howdan, 34, a food supply salesman, who lives in the house next to the now mangled bridge.

While the bombardment of Beirut airport makes front page news, small strikes like these are spreading disruption over a larger area. “The entire logistics of the country are coming to a halt,” Minister of Public Works Mohammed Safadi told TIME.

As if the destruction of bridges weren’t enough, the transport situation became much worse two days ago, when the Israelis began targeting individual trucks, according to Safadi. “Truck owners and truck drivers are refusing to go on the roads,” he said. The Israelis “are explaining that some trucks could be moving weapons, but moving goods like food and medications is becoming a very dangerous thing to do.”

The ongoing Israeli air campaign has hamstrung the government’s ability to cope with the flood of refuges trying to escape the Israeli onslaught in the south and in southern Beirut. Volunteers have had to take matters into their own hands. “We are welcoming thousands of refugees,” said Salim Abu Ismail, the president of the civic center in Baaqline, the largest town in the Chouf, an oasis of calm amid the escalating violence. But the town is struggling to keep up. “Fruits and vegetables are available from the farms but some supplies have to come from Beirut. This will be a big problem.”

As the human costs mount, so do the financial ones. In just one week, the damage to Lebanon’s infrastructure amounts to as much as $2.5 billion, according to Safadi. Even if the conflict ended tomorrow, Lebanon would struggle to find the money to rebuild itself. Tourists, the country’s largest source of income, are unlikely to return any time soon, and the country is already in debt from rebuilding after its decades-long civil war.

Lebanon also faces an imminent energy crisis. All of it’s fuel is shipped through seaports that are now blockaded by the Israeli Navy, and existing supplies are in jeopardy as Israeli pilots pick off fuel tanks. So far the Israelis have avoided hitting many electricity stations and most transmission lines. “But they are hitting all the fuel tanks, so the effect is the same,” said Safadi. “If you don’t have fuel you don’t have electricity.”

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