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Storm carries massive rubbish pile to shores of Lebanon

Anger erupts as rubbish washes ashore in stark reminder of the rubbish crisis the country has endured for years.

rubbish pile

Large amounts of rubbish have washed ashore on beaches north of the Lebanese capital as a result of a heavy storm, reigniting debate about the rubbish crisis that has for years plagued the country.

According to local media, the rubbish had been collecting near the town of Jiyyeh, but large waves - a result of the storm that hit Lebanon last weekend - carried the rotting refuse out to sea.

The tide brought it back to shore, littering Zouq Mosbeh beach north of Beirut with large amounts of rubbish, including everything from plastic waste to used sanitary napkins, one news report said.

A cleanup was ordered by Prime Minister Saad Hariri who demanded workers "move quickly to address the problem".

Teams were told to "clean the beach completely, returning it to its former state", Hariri said in a statement.

However, photos of the polluted beach on social media raised the ire of the Lebanese public and some politicians.

Sami Gemayel, an opposition member of parliament, said officials responsible for the stinky mess should be held to account.

"Whoever defended and allowed the establishment of landfills along the coastline is to be held responsible for this disaster," he said. 

"This is the result of the incompetence of our leaders and of corruption," Gemayel was quoted as saying by The Daily Star newspaper on Tuesday. 

Environment Minister Tarek Khatib accused Gemayel of leading a "misinformation campaign".

The incident was a stark reminder of the garbage crisis that has roiled Lebanon for years. In 2015 protests erupted after Beirut's main landfill was closed because of overcapacity, according to the government.

After its closure, the main waste management company, Sukleen, stopped collecting rubbish, saying it had no place to dispose of it.

As a result, garbage started piling up on the streets of Beirut, eventually leading to mass protests - under the banner "You Stink" - over the government's failure to find a solution.

In a bid to end the crisis, the Lebanese government announced a series of measures, including the reopening of two closed landfills and the establishment of waste-treatment facilities.

But most of those promises have not been met, and rubbish piles started to rise again leading to renewed problems with garbage collection and people burning their trash.

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