After the inferno in Beirut, anger spreads among the population. Why was high-explosive material stored in the port for years? In the city, however, there is a picture of horror.
To the devastating explosion in the Lebanese capital Beirut investigators are investigating allegations of negligence. At the heart of the investigation is the long-term storage of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate in the port, which is believed to have ignited and caused the explosion. On Wednesday the government ordered house arrest for an unspecified number of port workers.
According to the Ministry of Health, 135 people were killed and around 5,000 injured in the explosion on Tuesday. Parts of the city were destroyed. Anger broke out among the ruling elite, which is blamed for chronic mismanagement and carelessness.
The port of Beirut and the customs authority are considered some of the most corrupt and lucrative institutions in Lebanon. Numerous groups, politicians and even the radical Islamic Hezbollah have an influence there.
The explosion in the port is considered to be the most violent detonation that has ever occurred in the Lebanese capital. The chemical cargo has been kept there since it was confiscated by a cargo ship in 2013. Explosives experts and video footage suggested that the material may have been blown up in connection with a fire that broke out in a nearby warehouse with fireworks.
The first international aid deliveries arrived by plane. The World Health Organization announced on Wednesday that it would deliver medical supplies that could be used to treat thousands of victims, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said.
Several countries responded to the government’s calls for help and promised to send airplanes with rescue workers and specialists as well as medical supplies and money. The French President Emmanuel Macron announced a visit to Beirut on Thursday.
Macron visits Beirut
In France, which, as a former mandate, is still closely linked to Lebanon, the catastrophe triggered grief and horror. Macron now wants to deliver a “message of brotherhood and solidarity of the French”.
According to information from the German Press Agency, Germany provided the transport of seriously injured Air Force Airbus A310 “MedEvac”. It was checked on Thursday whether the airborne rescue center of the armed forces – a mobile medical facility – can be set up. A medical research team from the armed forces the situation in Beirut should be checked at short notice and flown in.
There are also plans to relocate the corvette “Ludwigshafen am Rhein” from Cyprus to Beirut, which is currently being used by the UN Lebanon troops (Unifil). However, it is still being checked whether this is requested by the Lebanese side.
The financial damage from the explosion is between ten and 15 billion dollars (8.4 to 12.6 billion euros), said the governor of Beirut, Marwan Abboud, the Saudi television station Al-Hadath. Almost 300,000 people lost their homes.
Full powers for the military
The Lebanese government declared a two-week state of emergency after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. It gives the military full powers during this period. The investigation into the disaster will be transparent, President Michel Aoun promised before the cabinet meeting. Those responsible should be held accountable. “There are no words to describe the disaster that hit Beirut last night.”
The day after the catastrophe, a picture of terror appeared around the explosion site. The detonation tore a crater with a diameter of around 200 meters into the harbor, which filled with sea water. Smoke was still rising from the complex, and much of the center was littered with damaged vehicles and debris that had rained down from shattered house facades.
Many people were missing after the explosion. Relatives desperately asked for help finding their relatives on social media. On Instagram the page appeared with missing persons, radio moderators read the names of the disappeared and victims. Many residents of Beirut moved in with friends or relatives because their homes were destroyed. Injured people treated themselves because the hospitals were overloaded. Doctors asked the population for blood donations and generators for electricity.
With the destruction of its most important port, the question also arises how Lebanon, which has been hit by a severe economic crisis, will be supplied in the future and has taken in more than a million civil war refugees from neighboring Syria. The country is in a massive currency crisis, plus the corona pandemic. Many people had already lost their jobs and savings were shrinking due to inflation.