08/12/2020, 15.13
LEBANON
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One week from explosions, many hypotheses but no answers

The death toll continues to grow: 171, with 30 people considered missing. Over 6 thousand injured; hundreds of thousands are left homeless, housed in private homes or convents or mosques. Yesterday in the Martyrs Square, a commemoration of the victims and "hanging" of those responsible. Already four years ago, US security personnel warned of the danger associated with stored ammonium nitrate.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - Exactly one week after the explosions that devastated the port and a large part of the capital, there is still no news on the results of the official investigation launched on 5 August. Authorities promised that the results would be published after five days.

The deflagration caused 171 deaths, added to which are at least 30 other people considered missing. There are over 6 thousand injured and hundreds of thousands have been left homeless, now housed in private homes or convents or mosques.

Many suspect that the explosion of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, stored in a depot in the port, near an area with a high population density, is the result of negligence and superficiality. So far the government has placed those responsible for the port and customs under house arrest and has transferred responsibility for the trial to the Court of Justice of the Republic, a court that judges without appeal.

It is known that the huge amount of ammonium nitrate - which is used as fertilizer and as an explosive - entered Beirut in 2014. On July 20, 2020, the state security services warned about the danger of the storage and instructions were given to find a safer accommodation. Less than three weeks later, the tragedy occurred.

The day after the explosions, President Michel Aoun did not rule out that the explosions were triggered with a missile or a bomb. But he made it clear that this is a hypothesis yet to be verified.

The thesis of state neglect is reinforced by a report in the New York Times two days ago that revealed that already four years ago a consultant who worked for the US military had expressed doubts about the deposit. A US security expert then issued a warning to the Lebanese authorities during an inspection of the port of Beirut.

The US embassy in Lebanon published an archival document on 7 August proving these communications to the Lebanese government.

Now the US embassy is receiving criticism from many diplomatic representations in Beirut for keeping silent about this danger: there are also foreign employees and diplomatic personnel among the victims of the explosion.

On the other hand, the hypothesis launched by the US embassy on the possibility that the explosions were caused by an arms depot that Hezbollah kept close to the ammonium nitrate warehouse does not seem to take hold. Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah strongly denied that his group had "arms or ammunition depots in the port".

Nonetheless, for the inhabitants of Beirut, who see Lebanon falling apart, everyone is guilty. Yesterday, in a gathering of hundreds of people in Martyrs Square, a memorial was held for the victims of the explosion and once again, the rite of hanging mannequins representing all the Lebanese political leaders was held.

In support of the people of Beirut and Lebanon, in support of Caritas Lebanon, AsiaNews has decided to launch the "In aid of devastated Beirut" campaign. Those who want to contribute can send donations to:

- PIME Foundation - IBAN: IT78C0306909606100000169898 - Institution identification code (BIC): BCITITMM -

Clause: "AN04 - IN AID OF A DEVASTATED BEIRUT"

- through the AsiaNews website under "DONATE NOW"

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