Lebanese drivers were stuck in their vehicles for several hours Tuesday as Army preparations for Independence Day added severe delays to the usual morning traffic.
Hours later, the Army released a statement apologizing for causing such heavy traffic.
“The Army’s leadership expresses regret for the damage of people’s interests and work as a result of the heavy traffic due to military training in preparation for Independence Day celebrations,” the statement said.
It added that police released a statement with regards to road closures in Downtown Beirut the day before.
“The Army’s leadership calls on citizens to adhere to security forces’ traffic measures for occasions particularly for Independence Day on Nov. 22,” it said.
At 6:30 a.m., traffic was diverted from several entrances to Downtown Beirut including Gemmayzeh, a tunnel near Phoenicia Hotel, and the St. George area, to make way for the transport of military vehicles that will take part in Thursday’s celebrations in BIEL.
The northern entrance of Beirut saw severe traffic jams coming from Jounieh, Antelias, Jal Dib, Nah el-Mott, Karantina, and the Charles Helou Avenues as well as Baabdet.
Roads will reopen at 1 p.m.
A spokesperson for the Internal Security Forces apologized for the heavy traffic caused by the Army’s training and preparations in Beirut and said the military cannot train at night.
“The Army chose the appropriate place for its training because of the light and it cannot train at night,” Colonel Joseph Msalem told a local television station.
He added that the Army’s training ends around 12 p.m. and “then the problem would be resolved.”On the occasion of the 69th anniversary of Independence Day, soldiers will perform a military parade that will include stunts and a helicopter show in the presence of President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Speaker Nabih Berri.
“Every time they want to do something, they shut down the roads and leave us stuck in our cars,” Elie, a manager at a distributing company said while in traffic on the Dora highway. “This is not acceptable. They don’t care about us.”
“My usual route takes me 15 minutes since I live nearby where I work,” he angrily said. “I have been in this traffic for over an hour.”
Nadine Semaan, 23, a student who has a part-time job took three hours to reach Beirut from Jounieh, a stretch of 30 kilometers.
“I’m running out of gas,” she exclaimed.
While some turned to their cellphones to pass the time and communicate with friends in similar traffic, others called the morning radio shows and social media outlets to vent.
“Please give us more reasons to curse our independence days,” a popular blogger said on his Twitter feed.
Lebanon is known for its heavy traffic particularly during rush hours which is estimated to cost the country around $2 billion annually in lost opportunities.