Beirut Burns: Massive fires break out on site of August explosion

BEIRUT, Lebanon—A month after the devastating ammonium nitrate blast that killed over 200 people, left around 6,500 injured, and as many as 300,000 people homeless, a massive fire has broken out in the port of Beirut. 

There are conflicting reports as authorities try to pinpoint the origination of the fire. Local police are unsure what ignited the fire at the port facility, but the state-run National News Agency declared that the fire originated from a warehouse containing tires. 

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Police spokesman Col. Joseph Msalam told reporters: “I don’t know. It could be containers. I really don’t know what is there.” Msalam added that the army was currently in control of the facility. The Lebanese army acknowledged the fire did, in fact, originate from the tire warehouse, and efforts to extinguish the fire were underway—including the use of army helicopters.

For local resident Andre Muarbes, watching soot and ash fall on vehicles and buildings across parts of the capital was a surreal sight for the 53-year-old:  “For sure we were scared, it’s only been a month since the explosion that destroyed Beirut. We saw the same thing happening again.”

Luckily, officials said that no one had been injured in Thursday’s fire; acknowledging that some experienced shortness of breath. Many Lebanese locals are exasperated by the lack of transparency from the government: there have yet to be any initial findings released from an investigation into last month’s explosion. 

The sky was filled with ominous black smoke—a fitting metaphor for the dark cloud that has hovered over Beirut for the last month. 

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The small Mediterranean country had been dealing with a terrible economic crisis brought on by decades of corruption and mismanagement. The soaring unemployment and inflation before the blast had rendered its currency virtually worthless. The blast was seen by many as a referendum on the current government’s morass. 

The government of Lebanon resigned on August 10, under pressure from massive protests that rocked the country in the days following the blast. Lebanon had a brutal civil war that lasted for 15 years ending in 1990. 

Protestors have demanded the ouster of the country’s political elite—the same ones that allowed the ammonium nitrate to be stored in a warehouse for six years without proper safety controls. 

This new fire only adds to the political, economic, and social uncertainty currently grappling the country. Sadly the powers that be still have a long way to go: last week, the military discovered more than 4 tons of ammonium nitrate near the port and said they were “dealing with the material.” Let’s hope sooner rather than later. 

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Source: Fox News

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