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Lebanon: Death toll increases, 135 killed, 5,000 injured in massive explosion

6th Aug 2020
Lebanon: Death toll increases, 135 killed, 5,000 injured in massive explosion

By Cindi Cook

(AA): A massive explosion that rocked Lebanon’s capital Beirut on Tuesday evening has increased the death toll to 135 with dozens missing and nearly 5,000 injured according to Health Minister. More than 300,000 people are reported to have lost their homes.

The explosion occurred at the city’s port which officials believe was caused after a cache of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse there detonated. Reports are that the blasts were ignited by a fire that took hold among fireworks stored in the same warehouse. Terrorism was quickly ruled out as a cause of the explosions.

The Lebanese government on Wednesday approved the decision of the Supreme Defense Council to announce a state of emergency in Beirut following the deadly blast on Tuesday.

Lebanon is determined to investigate and punish those responsible for the Beirut port explosion, Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a press conference following a cabinet meeting, Aoun said the government will “pursue investigations to bring those responsible to accountability and impose the most severe penalties against them.”

“Results of the investigations will be announced transparently and submitted to the court,” he said.

The government also decided in its session held in the presidential Baabda Palace to put all concerned officers in the port under house arrest, especially those who were responsible for the port’s warehouses checking the explosive materials since 2014.

The Lebanese Information Minister Manal Abdelsamad said the state of emergency will last for two weeks effective as of Aug. 4 with possibility to be extended.

The stockpile of ammonium nitrate — an odorless substance commonly used as fertilizer — had been stored at the port for the past six years, seized from a cargo ship in 2014 and never properly disposed of. Not combustible on its own, ammonium nitrate can become so when put under extreme heat. Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun has called the chain of events “unacceptable.”

So forceful was the explosion — whose mushroom cloud appearance recalled a nuclear bomb — that it leveled buildings and blew out windows for miles around. The force was even felt as far away as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which lies 150 miles across the Mediterranean to the west.

The explosions registered 3.5 on the Richter scale, used to measure earthquakes.

French President Emmanuel Macron will go to Lebanon on Thursday to assess the situation and meet with Lebanese counterpart Aoun and Prime Minister Hassan Diab.

France already sent three military planes Wednesday morning to Beirut loaded with 55 French soldiers, a dozen doctors, 6 tons of military equipment, and 15 tons of other equipment and aid.

Iran’s first batch of aid consisting of 9 tons of foodstuff, medicine & medical equipment arrived in Beirut Wednesday. The first Iranian field hospital in Beirut, running and operational at the moment. A 22-member medical team is now working tirelessly in Beirut to provide help.

UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, said UK has made up to £5 million in emergency humanitarian funding available to help people made homeless by the disaster.

The UK has also offered enhanced support to the Lebanese Armed Forces, who are central to the Government of Lebanon’s response, including tailored medical help, strategic air transport assistance, and engineering and communications support.

In addition UK is to send an EMT advance clinical advisory team who could provide initial assessment and coordination with search and rescue teams. UK International Emergency Medical Teams (EMT) offer a rapid provision of internationally accredited public health, medical and surgical teams including both NHS and non NHS experts.

US President Trump claimed Tuesday the explosions in Beirut was a bombing rather than an explosion, saying it was the appraisal offered to him by US generals.

Asked if he was confident in his assessment the blast was an attack and not an accident, Trump said “it would seem like it, based on the explosion.”

“I met with some of our great generals, and they just seem to feel that it was. This was not some kind of a manufacturing explosion type of event,” he said. “They would know better than I would, but they seem to think it was an attack, it was a bomb of some kind.”

However, US Defense Secretary said the explosions was an accident.

“Most believe” a devastating bomb blast that rocked the Lebanese capital “was an accident,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday after US President Donald Trump claimed it was an attack.

Addressing the virtual Aspen Security Forum, Esper said he is “still getting information on what happened” in Beirut, and did not elaborate on his comments about the explosion’s origins.

Many foreigners were killed and injured in the explosions.

At least four Bangladeshi migrant workers were killed and 80 others wounded in deadly explosion in a warehouse at a sea port in Lebanon’s capital Beirut on Tuesday, according to official sources.

Bangladesh Embassy in Beirut disclosed the identities of the deceased Wednesday night. They were Mizan from mid-southern district of Madaripur, Rezaul from mid-southern district of Cumilla and Mehedi Hasan Roni and Rasel Miah from southerneastern district of Brahmanbaria.

“We are constantly monitoring the treatment of our injured nationals and providing financial support for them. Our foreign minister AK Abdul Momen also proposed for sending medical and food assistance for Lebanese government,” Md. Jahangir Al Mustahidur Rahman, Bangladeshi envoy in Beirut, said in a video statement on Wednesday evening.

Additional report by The Muslim News

[Photo: A view of the damage after a fire at a warehouse with explosives at the Port of Beirut led to massive blasts in Beirut, Lebanon on August 5, 2020.
Photographer: Houssam Shbaro/AA]

 

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