A massive and devastating explosion ripped through Beirut on Tuesday evening, killing hundreds, injuring countless lives and causing billions worth of damage. Authorities scramble to dig for survivors and aid the wounded as daybreak hits the port city. Beirut’s governor Marwan Abboud announced between 200,000 and 250,000 citizens had been rendered homeless, and that the death toll may rise as authorities dig for survivors feared to be trapped under rubble. Many compared the explosion to the tragedy of Hiroshama-Nagasaki- the aftermath is widespread and shockwaves were felt on the outskirts of the city.
With hundreds missing and hospitals overwhelmed with casualties, the world mourns the catastrophe. Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his sorrow for the loss of hundreds of lives. “Deeply pained to hear of the massive explosion in Beirut with precious lives lost & thousands injured”, Khan tweeted. The world is showing solidarity for the tragedy and sharing the grief that struck Beirut. Iran, Cyprus and the United States have offered to send medical aid and help the wounded. India’s Modi was “shocked and saddened” and Australia mourns the Lebanon disaster. Lebanon is in need of major international help to deal with this devastation, and many countries are standing up to offer assistance. Yet, while local officials are launching investigations into the blast, many wonder the causes of the tragedy.
This is what we know.
A shipment of approximately 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate was stored in a warehouse in Beirut’s port for six years. Governor Abboud revealed that a security report from 2014 warned of highly explosive materials stored without safety measures, and that there lurked the possibility of an explosion. This analysis showed that senior Lebanese officials were aware of the potential dangers of the explosives. Accprding to recent reports from AlJazeera, the officials who were aware of the said threat are being reprimanded on house arrest, pending further investigation.
The ammonium nitrate was forced to dock in Beirut 2013 after facing technical issues at sea. The dangerous cargo was offloaded and placed in Hangar 12 of Beirut port. Officials sent more than 6 letters over the next few years urging the removal of the cargo and expressing the possibility of colossal damage.
This immense mismanagement and fail in the chain of command is presumed to be the root cause of the tragedy. Badri Daher, the director of the Lebanese customs office pointed the finger at Hassan Koraytem, head of the port, who has not commented.
Although the White House National Security Council did not offer any comments, Trump offered a more threatening explanation for the explosion. “This is not some kind of manufacturing-explosion type of event”, he replied to a reporter. “They seem to think it was an attack. A bomb of some kind.”
Trump isn’t the only one speculating that the tragedy was caused by bomb. Although experts have completely denied that the explosion was atomic, that hasn’t stopped others from speculating. While there was a blast wave and a mushroom cloud, which do happen in nuclear blasts, the explosion was far too small to be a nuke, among other reasons. While it’s still far too early to tell what actually happened in Beirut, one story floating around social media was that the explosion was related to fireworks. The Lebanese military and other sources told freelance reporters on the ground in Beirut that it was possible that fireworks stored in the area caught fire and reached a nearby warehouse.
French President, Emannuel Macron, is said to be deploying assistance to the grief stricken state. Solidarity Stands in Paris continue where Lebanese citizens and other members of the public grieve the catastrophic loss and mourn, standing with Lebanon.
The World Bank has declared its aide in helping Lebanon financially mobilise and recover after the blast, while Baghdad has attested they will fund fuel aid for the nation. According to reporter, Ted Regencia, Amnesty International is calling for an 'independent investigation'.
"Amnesty International also calls on the international community to urgently increase humanitarian aid to Lebanon at a time when the country was already struggling with the severe economic crisis, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic."
With the world mourning for the deadly-blast that has shaken a nation, we all send our prayers to Beirut and Lebanon for a just recovery.