International aid flights have begun to arrive in Lebanon as the country’s leaders struggle to deal with the widespread devastation and appalling aftermath of Tuesday’s blast. Two planeloads of French rescue workers and aid headed to Beirut, as well as several planes of medical equipment and supplies from Greece, Kuwait, Qatar and other countries. Search-and-rescue teams, were sent from Turkey, in addition to humanitarian aid, medical equipment and a field hospital. Lebanon’s Health Ministry said 135 people were killed and about 5,000 others injured.
Associated Press reports that the ruling elite was being blamed for the ‘chronic mismanagement’ and ‘carelessness’ that had led to the disaster. According to AP, the Port of Beirut and customs office is notorious for being one of the most corrupt and lucrative institutions in Lebanon.
There is an investigation into how 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, supposedly a highly explosive chemical used in fertilizers, was stored at the facility for six years. Other reports however, read that ammonium nitrate is not highly combustible, unless triggered, or stored under extreme heat conditions, or in a ‘contaminated’ holding. AP reports that it is believed to have detonated after a fire broke out nearby.
Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud said an estimated $10 billion to $15 billion worth of losses have been suffered from the blast, adding that almost 300,000 people have been left homeless. One resident of the city said, “Beirut as we know it is gone and people won’t be able to rebuild their lives.” She blamed officials for lack of responsibility and “stupidity.”
Lebanon amid a severe economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic, with severe job losses, was reportedly already was on the brink of collapse. The country imports nearly all its essential goods and now that its main port has been destroyed in the blast, food security is a worry. Drone footage shows the blast wrecked a silo in which 85% of the country’s grain was stored. The grain was dumped by the force of the explosion onto the debris and is unusable.
AP reports that an unspecified number of Beirut port officials have been put under house arrest pending the investigation.
Umm Muhammed Umar