Over 100 people died and more than 4000 have been reported injured in a powerful blast in Beirut on Tuesday August 4. The dead include several foreign nationals. The cause of the blast is yet not clear, though officials suspect that the blast was caused by over 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in the warehouses near the port. The number of dead is expected to rise.
The explosion took place in the afternoon on Tuesday and it was so powerful that it shook houses kilometers away creating panic all around. The blasts devastated many buildings in the vicinity and even those further away and its impact was felt as far as Cyprus which is around 200 kilometers away.
The city’s airport, which is about 10 km away, was among the buildings which suffered extensive damage. Reports say that hospitals in the area have been flooded with the injured, with many running out of space to treat patients. Journalists on the ground reported that at least three hospitals have also been severely damaged due to the blast. Deaths of medical staff in those hospitals have also been reported.
Lebanese president Michel Aoun has called for an emergency cabinet meeting to seek a two week state of emergency to deal with the aftermath of the disaster. Prime minister Hasan Diab has called for a day of mourning on Wednesday.
There are no words to describe the scope of destruction in Beirut. I’ve seen the damage from war in Syria and Iraq. But that happened gradually, one neighborhood or street at a time. This was an entire city destroyed in a few minutes. The suffering and misery is unfathomable.
— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) August 5, 2020
In a statement, the Lebanese Communist Party expressed condolences to the families of the victims. It demanded a prompt investigation into the cause of the blast and to hold the persons responsible for the disaster. The party declared August 5 as a “day of humanitarian solidarity with the harmed people and social solidarity with the compatriots, and puts all its resources to face the consequences of the disaster that happened”.
“I’m told 80% of Lebanon’s imports came through the destroyed port, including ICRC & WFP warehouses. To make things worse: logistical operations of desperately needed international aid to Syria was reportedly destroyed. Syria is under crippling US sanctions. This is very bad,” Rania Khalek said on twitter.
The blast has increased the anger among the Lebanese people already under strain due to the economic crisis in the country and COVID-19 related lockdown. The unemployment rate in the country has gone above 35% at a time when a huge public debt has caused a policy paralysis. The Lebanese have been protesting against the mismanagement of the economy and general inefficiency of the governments for almost a year now which had led to the resignation of former prime minister Saad Hariri last year. The protesters are demanding widespread systemic reforms in the country’s political system.