The Beirut Explosion: After Effects

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.

International Response:

  • 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.

Conclusion:

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.

BEIRUT BLAST, SHATTERED THE WHOLE WORLD

Now I am shaking, all the way from the up and down.”-An eyewitness described the violence of the explosion.

Lebanon’s capital Beirut witnessed two consecutive explosions on Tuesday afternoon, as per the local time. It took place in the central port area of the city. The horrible blast was caught on the camera and spread widely across the social media platforms.

The footage showed a bigger cloud of smoke swirling near the port area of the city, blowing the video grapher off his feet.

The cause of this massive explosion has not been clear yet. The initial assessment of the government was the detonation of more than 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been reserved in a warehouse at the port of the capital city, Beirut which was taken over from a cargo ship six years ago.

Lebanon’s cabinet has announced a two-week state of emergency in the capital and handed control of the security to the military.

Initially, the 100 death was reported but the death toll rises to 135 as about 5000 people are extremely wounded along with immense financial loss.

More than 100 people have been reported missing. The governor of Beirut has estimated the cost of the damage as more than 3 billion and up to 3000 people had suffered destroy to their homes, leaving some uninhabitable. The mega blast devastated grains silos that contained 85% of the country’s grain supply.

Food prices had already raised due to the economic crisis in the pandemic, before the explosion, 49% of Lebanese were estimated to worry about access to the food, as per the World Food Programme.

We expect that the damage at the port will significantly exacerbate the economic and food security situation in Lebanon.”- United Nations deputy spokesperson.

Lebanon’s healthcare system is struggling to combat with COVID-19 pandemic, is already drained. Surviving with the aftermath of the sudden blast would be a new challenge for the authority.

Shocked and saddened by the large explosion in Beirut city leading to loss of life and property. Our thoughts and prayers are with bereaved families and the injured.”- the Prime Minister of India.

It is not just the explosions that made the country’s situation vulnerable. In the past few years, Lebanon has been suffering from one after another crisis, political instability, or a weaker economy. The price of food and beverages is increasing day by day.

Last year a protest procession on the street broke out in Beirut against corruption and the government’s inability to provide basic needs of habitants, demanding to Prime minister, Saad Hariri’s resignation.

The authority should look into the disaster carefully and try to fix the economy of the country.

Otherwise, it would not be possible to recover the scarcity. Other countries in the region, as well as international institutions, should lend their hand to help Beirut to tussle with the shock.

The country’s economic system is in danger. All the stakeholders should work together to withstand the moment of catastrophe.

-Saswati Chattopadhyay.