On Tuesday the 4th of August, a pair of explosions, the second much bigger than the first, killing at least 100 people, wounding more than 4,000 and causing widespread damage across the Beirut Port in Lebanon. The incident went viral on social media as videos of the second bomb and the massive shockwave it sent which destroyed everything in its path.
The specifics of whom or what cause the bombing is still a mystery but the first blast occurred with an alleged mishap in a fireworks warehouse and the second blast which proved to be more deadly, shattering glass off the buildings more than a mile away, officials state that a 2,750-ton stockpile of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical often used as fertilizer, which Prime Minister (Lebanon) Hassan Diab said had been stored in a depot for six years was the cause of the more devastating second explosion.
It is yet to be determined whether the two blasts were accidents or intentionally triggered. Beirut was engulfed in a civil war from 1975 to 1990 and has seen conflict and is infamously known for bombings in the city since then, which raises concerns over a possible return of violence in the city. Major General Abbas Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s general security service, has advised against speculating about terrorism in the city before the facts of the incident were clarified.
The 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that lead to the shock explosion is believed to have originated from a Russian-owned vessel that docked in Beirut’s port while it was sailing in 2013 from Georgia to Mozambique but the ship was abandoned, and the ammonium nitrate is believed to have been offloaded and shifted into the port’s warehouses, the site of the terrifying explosion on Tuesday which left Lebanon and the world in shock.
The blasts that caused severe damage to buildings, warehouses, and grain silos in the port, a central storage location for grain, and a critical link in the country’s supply chain for goods including food and medicine. The grain silos that were damaged or destroyed store 85 percent of the country’s grain and the authorities said that the wheat that had survived was now inedible leaving Lebanon in a state of crisis
The port, in the north of the city, handled an approximate of 60 percent of the country’s overall imports. The two explosions ripped through the popular nightlife and shopping districts which were important sources of income, densely populated neighborhoods leaving more than 750,000 people that live in those parts of the city that was damaged and at least 300,000 have been displaced as of Wednesday.
Lebanon has been suffering from a series of crises, which includes the plunging value of its currency, an influx of refugees from neighboring countries, and the COVID - 19 pandemic. Since the last economic term, waves of protesters have taken to the streets to show the country’s political elite over their mismanagement of the financial.
Videos suggest that the second explosion was similar to that on an earthquake, witnesses in Cyprus claim to have felt the effects of the second blast, more than 100 miles away. The seismic waves that were caused due to the explosion were equivalent to a 3.3-magnitude earthquake, according to the United States Geological Survey.
The damage of the second explosion left the ceilings collapsed, walls and windows were blown out, and debris of which was found far as two miles away from the port. Cars were flipped, and rubble from shattered buildings filled city streets.
The governor of Beirut, Marwan Aboud, stated on Wednesday that half of the city had been damaged, with the financial toll expected to surpass $3 billion.
Doctors expressed their concern as several hospitals, already strained from the coronavirus pandemic, were damaged, four of them so severely that they could not admit patients. At the Bikhazi Medical Group hospital in the center of the city, a ceiling fell on some patients, the hospital director said. Many doctors and nurses were also killed in the blast.
Hamad Hasan, Lebanon’s health minister, said in a televised address that government warehouses had been damaged and that the country was “running short of everything necessary to rescue” and treat victims.
Mr. Diab has vowed that the explosions won’t “fly by without accountability,” but in a country marred by decades of corruption, many in Lebanon were skeptical that any high-profile figures would face consequences.
The investigations are likely to focus on why tons of ammonium nitrate was stored at the port, and who made the decision to let a highly combustible substance sit there for years. The Lebanese authorities have placed Beirut port officials who had overseen storage and security since 2014 under house arrest, the minister of information said on Wednesday.
Author: Manish JS