RIO DE JANEIRO – The famous Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro was illuminated on Thursday with the Lebanese flag in solidarity with the victims of the explosions that took place on Tuesday in the port of Beirut, which has left 137 dead so far and more than 5,000 injured.
“We came to send a message of solidarity and support, and to tell the Lebanese people that we were always strong and we always managed to get out of all miseries, massacres, blood and death,” said Alejandro Bitar, Consul General of Lebanon in Rio de Janeiro, during the ceremony at the monument.
The largest tourist symbol in the country, whose imposing Art Deco figure has also served in recent months to display awareness messages about the coronavirus, wanted to pay tribute to the Lebanese people after the devastating explosion that took place in the port of Beirut.
The incident was caused by the detonation of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate sitting in a warehouse at the port, and the huge shock wave caused considerable material damage several kilometers around the affected area.
“We have to protect that country, we have to come together and be united so that Lebanon is a country of progress and prosperity,” said Bitar at the foot of Christ the Redeemer, located at the top of the Corcovado mountain in Rio de Janeiro, 710 meters above sea level.
Brazil is home to a large Lebanese community in its vast territory of about 10 million people. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Wednesday that his country will do “something specific” to help Lebanon.
Illuminating Christ the Redeemer was an initiative of the Consulate General of Lebanon in Rio de Janeiro, the Lebanese collective in Rio, as well as the Catholic Church and other religious groups.
The consignment of ammonium nitrate, a common component in fertilizer and in explosives used for mining, had been sitting at the port since June 2014.
The vessel carrying the cargo from Georgia to Mozambique docked in Beirut in 2013 due to mechanical problems. Lebanese authorities deemed the M/V Rhosus not-seaworthy and the owner ultimately abandoned both the ship and the cargo.
While officials are scrambling to address the immediate crisis, Lebanese leaders have vowed to find out how the highly volatile cargo was left in storage without precautions.