An explosion in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, a country in western Asia caught on camera and widely circulated on social media. Two massive explosions in Beirut on Thursday afternoon which occurred barely within minutes each other shocked the entire world. The explosion took place in the central port area of the city. Following the first blast, the fire spread to a nearby building, triggering a bigger explosion. The footage showed smoke billowing near the port area of the city, shortly before a powerful blast sent up a bigger cloud of smoke and a shockwave across the city.
How powerful was the explosion?
The blast affected residents living as far as 10 kilometres away from the site. It even damaged the Baabda Palace, the residence of the Lebanese President.
Meanwhile, the explosion was felt nearly 250 kilometers away, on the neighboring island of Cyprus. Lebanese Prime Minister Said Hariri said the scale of the losses was too great to be described. The biggest loss is the loss of dozens of dead and injured.
What was the reason for the blast?
People in Beirut have expressed anger at the government over what they say was negligence that led to Tuesday’s huge explosion. The blasts were likely triggered by confiscated explosives, stored by authorities near the port. Major General Abbas Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s general security service told state-run National News Agency, that “highly explosive materials” were stored in the buildings. These, he said, were seized by the government years ago.
The ammonium nitrate – which ice used as a fertilizer in agriculture and as an explosive has 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 said 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 National News Agency also reported that the sources of the explosion were believed to be a major fire at a warehouse in the area. After the blasts, several locals also reported an orange cloud hanging over the city. Presidential Michel Aoun later said there were at least 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, used in fertilizers and bombs, stored at the port without safety measures. Many people have accused the authorities of corruption, neglect, and mismanagement.
The country’s Supreme Defense Council insisted that those found responsible would face the “maximum punishment”.
What is the current situation?
Security forces have sealed off a wide area around the blast site and security has been looking for bodies and survivors under rubble while boats search the waters off the coast. Dozens of people are still missing.
Public Health Minister Hamas 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.
Nearly 300,000 people have been left homeless by the blast. Currently, Beirut needs food, clothes, houses, materials to rebuild houses.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab called it a catastrophe and said those responsible must be held to account. The Prime minister also called for international help, “I make an urgent appeal to friendly and brotherly countries to stand by Lebanon and help us heal our deep. President declared a three-day mourning period and said the government would release 100 billion lira (£50.5m; $66m) of emergency funds.
Many countries have offered humanitarian assistance. On Thursday, President Emmanuel Macron became the first world leader to visit the country. The EU, Russia, Tunisia, Turkey, Iran, and Qatar are all sending relief supplies. The UK is ready to provide support in anyhow, including to those British nationals affected. President Donald Trump sends his deepest sympathies after what he called “a terrible attack”, and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered assistance, tweeting “We are monitoring and stand ready to assist the people of Lebanon as they recover from this horrible tragedy. Meanwhile, a two-week state emergency has been imposed in Beirut following the blast.
Let’s pray for victims. Let’s pray for Beirut!
God, have mercy on our beloved Lebanon, and on its heartbroken people. Beirut, God is with you. The Lord is on your side as your helper.
Let’s hope justice for the people of Beirut!