August 6 (Evening Standard) – Lebanon’s Government has put all of its port security officials under arrest while investigators probe the deadly blast that killed more than 100 people and left thousands injured and homeless.
The blast’s death toll has risen to 135 people with 5,000 injured and 300,000 left homeless.
The investigation is reportedly focusing on possible negligence in the storage of tonnes of a highly explosive fertilizer in a waterfront warehouse.
In particular, investigators will be asking how 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical used in fertilisers, came to be stored at the facility for six years and why nothing was done about it.
International aid flights began to arrive as Lebanon’s leaders struggled to deal with the widespread damage and shocking aftermath of Tuesday’s blast.
Losses from the blast are estimated to be between $10 billion to $15 billion, Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud told Saudi-owned TV station Al-Hadath.
Hospitals were overwhelmed by the injured. One that was damaged in the blast had to evacuate all its patients to a nearby field for treatment.
It was the worst single explosion to strike Lebanon, a country whose history is filled with destruction — from a 1975-1990 civil war, conflicts with Israel and periodic terrorist attacks.
Lebanon already was on the brink of collapse amid a severe economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic.
Many have lost their jobs and seen their savings evaporate because of a currency crisis.
Food security is a worry, since the country imports nearly all its vital goods and its main port is now devastated. The Government is strapped for cash.
“Beirut as we know it is gone and people won’t be able to rebuild their lives,” said Amy, a woman who swept glass from a small alley beside by a tall building that served as a showroom for a famous Lebanese designer.
“This is hell. How are they (people) going to survive. What are they going to do?” she said, blaming officials for lack of responsibility and “stupidity.”
President Michael Aoun vowed before a Cabinet meeting that the investigation would be transparent and that those responsible will be punished.
“There are no words to describe the catastrophe that hit Beirut last night,” he said.
After the meeting, the Cabinet ordered an unspecified number of Beirut port officials put under house arrest pending the investigation.