An explosion that shook Beirut on 4th August, 2020 killing more than 100 and wounding more than 4500 has led to clashes between citizens and Lebanese security forces.
Tear gas was deployed on the protesters who were demanding answers as to why 2,750 tonnes Ammonium Nitrate was stored unsafely since 2013. It is a widespread belief amongst many that this huge explosion was a result of negligence on part of the government.
BBC has brought to light that the explosion managed to destroy entire districts. Homes and businesses of the location were reduced to rubble.
The explosion took place in a port that has been reiterated time and again to be Lebanon’s lifeline. Almost 80% of the nation’s grain come from this particular place.
“I’ve lived in Beirut for five years and it’s almost unrecognizable – it’s a city of sirens, of empty buildings, of empty streets. As I look at the neighborhood of Gemmayze just behind the port, I can’t see a single pane of glass left.
Entire roofs have gone – I can see friends’ apartments, which are just open to the sky now. All of this area, which was really heavily populated, has been abandoned. No-one is coming back here any time soon. What’s really noticeable as you walk the streets here is that every second person seems to have a broom in their hand.
There are clear-up teams everywhere, but it’s pretty low tech: tiny teams of people with pans and brushes to clean up an entire city’s devastation.
The thing that really strikes me is how enormously stupid it was, what criminal negligence it took to leave this highly explosive material right in the very heart of this city, within yards of people, their homes, their businesses.
And the authorities here knew – they had been warned that these chemicals were dangerous and that they were a great risk to Beirut and Lebanon,” states Quentin Sommerville, BBC News, Beirut.
The Ammonium Nitrate, pegged to be the main cause behind this devastating explosion, came from a Moldovan-flagged ship, the Rhosus. It entered the Beirut port after suffering a technical problem on the way to Mozambique.
This news was revealed by Shiparrested.com that deals with shipping related legal cases. “The Rhosus was inspected, banned from sailing onward and was shortly afterwards abandoned by its owners, sparking several legal claims.
Its cargo included the ammonium nitrate, which is used as a fertilizer and as an explosive,” explained BBC. The ship was further stored in the warehouse for safety revealed a report. Evidences suggest that the judiciary had been approached several times regarding the storage and selling of the chemical due to safety concerns, but no heed was paid to it.
Port General Manager Hassan Koraytem informed OTV that although they were aware regarding the inflammatory nature of the substance, they had no idea it was this dangerous.
Agencies have reported that state authorities have launched an investigation regarding the explosion. As a result of this, 16 people have been taken into custody. Moreover, the President, Michel Aoun, sounded skeptical as he said that there is a slight chance regarding hostility from an external authority.
The disaster has left around 300,000 people homeless. Two officials have resigned in the backdrop of the blast. “MP Marwan Hamadeh stepped down on Wednesday, while Lebanon’s ambassador to Jordan Tracy Chamoun stepped down on Thursday, saying the catastrophe showed the need for a change in leadership,” informed the media outlet, BBC.
Moreover, UN agencies called for urgent assistance as it believed that the hospital capacity was greatly challenged. The blast also destroyed n number of containers containing equipment’s to fight the ongoing pandemic. UNICEF informed that homes of nearly 100,000 children were damaged and in a state of being declared uninhabitable soon. Along with this, nearly 120 city schools were damaged.
In light of this, notices were circulating online calling people to Martyr’s Square. A place that has become a focal point of anti-governmental protests. A number of volunteers made rounds of various neighborhoods helping people to clean up. Lebanese Red Cross opined that the death toll could rise further as there is still a possibility of people being buried under rubble.
The nation has an intricate power sharing system that relies on division of power amongst its 18 recognized religious sects. Though this model has preserved peace in the nation since the end of civil war, critics say that such a model encourages cronyism and challenges accountability. These things often lead to disasters such as this. International rescuers who came to help have complained how they were caught up amidst bureaucratic procedures upon arrival to Beirut.
- The UN released $9 million to help Lebanon cope up with the destruction.
- Australia pledges $1.4 million for Beirut relief effort.
- Italy sent specialists, firefighters, over eight tonnes of humanitarian aid to Beirut, etc.
- Canada pledged to provide humanitarian assistance.
- Amnesty International has demanded an independent investigation of the explosion.
The explosion that rocked the nation on Tuesday, 4th August 2020, has by far been one of the worst instances in the history of Lebanon. This day shows clear as day how a government that is ineffective is detrimental to a nation and its citizens. May this situation be an example to all and hopefully, Lebanon recovers soon from its traumatic experience.