BEIRUT EXPLOSION: EXPLAINED
In Beirut, the Capital of Lebanon, an earthquake, followed by an explosion, has led to the death of at least hundred people and injuries to over 40,000 people.
The cause of this explosion was the combustion of 2,750 tonnes of Ammonium Nitrate- a chemical used in bombs, which had been in Hangar 12 of the city's port since September 2013.
Over six letters had been sent by customs to the government regarding this material, calling it an “urgent matter” and even proposing solutions such as selling it to the privately-owned Lebanese Explosives Company or handing to over to military. That letter in 2016 as well as one from Badri Daher, the new Lebanese Customs Administration director, stated: “In view of the serious danger of keeping these goods in the hangar in unsuitable climatic conditions, we reaffirm our request to please request the marine agency to re-export these goods immediately to preserve the safety of the port and those working in it”.
The cargo arrived onshore on a Russian-owned vessel with a Moldovan flag, heading to Mozambique from Georgia. It was forced to dock there due to technical issues. The Lebanese government restricted its return, leading to the company and the crewmen abandoning the ship at the shore.
An official quoted Prime Minister Diab as saying: “I will not relax until we find the responsible party for what happened, hold it accountable and apply the most serious punishments against it because it isn’t acceptable that a shipment of ammonium nitrate — estimated to be 2,750 tonnes — was in a depot for the past six years without precautionary measures being taken.”
However, citizens have poor faith in the government and say that they wouldn't be surprised if it turns out that the government's negligence caused this disaster.
Hospitals were already inundated by coronavirus patients when the situation worsened. One hospital reported the ceiling falling on critical patients and glass shards causing injuries to patients and their families.
At least three hospitals have been destroyed, two have been damaged and a few have reported the death of staff members. Many are turning patients away, while some have to treat patients on the streets. A few residents are even turning to hospitals in other cities.
Every available Red Cross ambulance from South Lebanon, North Lebanon and Bekaa is being dispatched to aid; so is the military.
As of now, a state of emergency has been declared and three days of mourning will be observed with immediate effect. Public Health Minister Hamad Hassan has assured citizens that the government will cover their medical costs regardless of whether the hospital has a contract with the ministry. The government is also going to release 100 billion lira ($66 mn) out of emergency funds.
The Earthquake combined with the explosion has resulted in overturned cars, destroyed buildings and shattered glass that rained from the sky and covered the ground like snow along with dark, heavy and suffocating smoke. Today, the people of Beirut suffer the despairing outcome of negligence- not even negligence that they had a part to play in, they are forced to agonize for their government’s inattention. And, consequentially, Beirut isn’t Beirut anymore.
Reporter- Katyayani Nath