A death toll of 157 and 5000 injured has left Lebanon in disaster.
Two massive explosions in port warehouses in Beirut, Lebanon on August 4, 2020 were captured in cameras. Lebanon is a Western Asian country on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea.
The catastrophic blast killed at least 157 people and injured about 5,000 people, while dozens are still missing. A two week state emergency has been imposed in Beirut.
What Caused the Blast?
This massive blast is thought to have been caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) that was stored unsafely at the port for six years.
NH4NO3, is an odourless crystalline substance commonly used as a fertiliser that has been the cause of numerous industrial explosions over the decades.
When combined with fuel oils, ammonium nitrate creates a potent explosive widely used by the construction industry, but also by insurgent groups like the Taliban for improvised explosives.
Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab said 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored for years in a Beirut portside warehouse had blown up, killing dozens of people and causing unprecedented damage to the Lebanese capital.
“As head of the government, I will not relax until we find the responsible party for what happened, hold it accountable and apply the most serious punishments against it,” the prime minister said
Countdown of The Disaster
Tonnes of Ammonium nitrate, arrived in the city in a Russian owned cargo ship, the Rhosus. It left Batumi, Georgia, with a cargo of ammonium nitrate bound for Mozambique but made an unscheduled stop in Beirut six years ago.
The then captain of the rhosus, Boris Prokoshev said he was told by the owner (Mr. Igor) that payment couldn’t be done for passage through The Suez Canal. Rhosus was sent to Beirut for the loading of additional cargo and heavy machinery. The machinery did not fit into the ship. When the owner failed to pay the port fees, Lebanese officials seized the Rhosus. This left Lebanon in charge of the cargo containing tonnes of ammonium nitrate.
The general manager of Beirut port in an interview told that the custom officials wrote letters to the court for three years. But the judiciary never looked into the matter seriously. He also added “we were told the cargo would be sold in an auction. But the auction ever happened and the judiciary never acted”.
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Local People’s Aggression Towards the Authorities
People in Beirut have expressed anger at the government over what they say was negligence that led to Tuesday’s huge explosion.
Many have accused the authorities of corruption, neglect and mismanagement.
Marwan Abboud, Beirut’s governor, said more than 300,000 citizens had been left unable to sleep in their own homes due to the explosion.
Economy Minister Raoul Nehme meanwhile said the country would have to rely at least partly on foreign aid to rebuild- “We’re not swimming in dollars” he said.
This incident left thousands of innocent lives to mum. Under all the legal proceedings, politics and lack of responsibility, Lebanon had to suffer. With the disappearing smoke in the city the shock has turned to anger and rage. The port was the central storage location for grains and critical supplies. The blast destroyed almost 85% of the supplies leaving the state in a food crisis. The country was struggling already with an economic and political crisis.
A surge in COVID patients is also foreseen due to the increasing casualties.
Countries like France and the U.S are coming forward for monetary aid.