President Michel Aoun blamed the explosions on unsafely stored ammonium nitrate. Port and customs officials have been placed under house arrest. Some suspect the presence of weapons. Former prime ministers are calling for "an international or Arab investigation" into the incident. The governor of Beirut says that people need food, clothes, material to rebuild their home; refugees need shelter. AsiaNews continues its “Help devastated Beirut’ campaign.
Beirut (AsiaNews) –The blasts that struck the Port of Beirut yesterday had one tenth of the explosive power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima 75 years ago, this according to specialists from the University of Sheffield (United Kingdom)
The explosion was “unquestionably one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions in history,” they noted. It killed at least 135 people and injured nearly 5,000. Some 300,000 residents have been displaced, their homes destroyed or damaged.
Because of potentially poisonous gases, hundreds of thousands of people are leaving the capital for the mountains or anywhere that is far from the affected area.
According to Lebanese President Michel Aoun, the explosions were caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, unsafely stored in a warehouse. For this reason, some port officials have been placed under house arrest, whilst an investigation is underway.
In their defence, port and customs officials are saying that they had requested the removal of the chemical several times but to no avail.
Online specialist sources note that the ammonium nitrate had been seized from a Moldovan-flagged ship in 2013 over some legal issues. The ship’s owners eventually abandoned it and its cargo was stored in one of the port’s warehouses.
Several analysts suspect that the blasts occurred because weapons were also stored in the port. In any case, for many Beirut residents, the incident shows the incapacity of the country’s political leaders to run the country.
Some are pushing for an international inquiry. All former Lebanese premieres, in opposition to the present government, yesterday called for an "international or Arab" investigation, since the explosions "undermined the confidence of the Lebanese people in the government".
The group includes Fouad Siniora, Saad Hariri and Tammam Salam. Walid Jumblatt's party and Marwan Hamadé have also urged an international investigation.
Meanwhile, the situation on the ground remains catastrophic. Many people have volunteered to clear the streets of the capital chocked with rubble and dust.
The humanitarian situation is serious. The Governor of Beirut, Marwan Abboud, issued an appeal: “Beirut needs food. Beirut needs clothes, housing, materials to rebuild homes. Beirut needs shelter for refugees, for its people.”
In order to help the people of Beirut and Lebanon, as well as Caritas Lebanon, AsiaNews is launching a campaign to ‘Help devastated Beirut’. Those who want to contribute can make a donation to:
- International Bank Account Number (IBAN): IT78C0306909606100000169898
- Bank Identifier Code (BIC): BCITITMM
- Reason for transfer: AN04 – HELP DEVASTATED BEIRUT