Beirut Port officials keep in house arrest as rescue efforts continue

Beirut Port officials keep in house arrest as rescue efforts continue

Beirut Port officials keep in house arrest as rescue efforts continue
Beirut Port officials  have been kept in house arrest as rescue efforts continued in the city. The blast killed at least 135 people and injured more than 4,000 others. A two-week state of emergency has begun.President Michel Aoun said the blast was caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely in a warehouse.


Customs chief Badri Daher said his agency called for the chemical to be removed, but "this did not happen"."We leave it to the experts to determine the reasons," he said.Ammonium nitrate is used as a fertiliser in agriculture and as an explosive. Opening an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday, President Aoun said: "No words can describe the horror that has hit Beirut last night, turning it into a disaster-stricken city".
  • What triggered the explosion?
The ammonium nitrate had reportedly been in a warehouse in Beirut port for six years after it was unloaded from a ship impounded in 2013.


The head of Beirut port and the head of the customs authority both told local media that they had written to the judiciary several times asking that the chemical be exported or sold on to ensure port safety.Port General Manager Hassan Koraytem told OTV that they had been aware that the material was dangerous when a court first ordered it stored in the warehouse, "but not to this degree".

The ammonium nitrate arrived on a Moldovan-flagged ship, the Rhosus, which entered Beirut port after suffering technical problems during its voyage from Georgia to Mozambique, according to Shiparrested.com, which deals with shipping-related legal cases.The Rhosus was inspected, banned from leaving and was shortly afterwards abandoned by its owners, sparking several legal claims. Its cargo was stored in a port warehouse for safety reasons, the report said.

Security forces have sealed off a wide area around the blast site, and rescuers have been looking for bodies and survivors under rubble while boats searched the waters off the coast. Tens of people are still missing.


Public Health Minister Hamad Hassan said Lebanon's health sector was short of beds and lacked the equipment necessary to treat the injured and care for patients in critical condition.He said a "large number of children" had been rescued but added that he feared that the number of dead would rise further.

The explosion comes at a sensitive time for Lebanon. With Covid-19 infections on the rise, hospitals were already struggling to cope. Now, they are faced with treating thousands of injured people. The country is also going through the worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war, and tensions were already high with street demonstrations against the government. People have to deal with daily power cuts, a lack of safe drinking water and limited public healthcare.
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