Authorities are saying that 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in an unsecured warehouse at Beirut’s cargo port is responsible for the massive explosion that shook Beirut, Lebanon, and killed at least 100 people, injuring more than 3,000.
— Arefin Rafy (@ArefinRafy) August 5, 2020
Police and volunteers are still going through the rubble looking for survivors.
Scores of people were missing, with relatives pleading on social media for help locating loved ones. An Instagram page called “Locating Victims Beirut” sprang up with photos of missing, and radio presenters read names of missing or wounded people throughout the night. Many residents moved in with friends or relatives after their apartments were damaged and treated their own injuries because hospitals were overwhelmed.
The ammonium nitrate had apparently been stored in the warehouse for years and authorities have yet to pinpoint the cause of the fire that ignited the conflagration. What that amount of potentially explosive material was doing being stored in an unsecured warehouse is a mystery.
The people of Lebanon have a pretty good guess who was storing that ammonium nitrate.
Several Lebanese friends and contacts messaged to say that this could only be Hezbollah, the Shiite militia and shadow state in Lebanon. Even if that’s not true, it shows what some Lebanese are thinking — and therefore how this crisis might develop. Hezbollah, through its media outlets, spoke about an accident involving ‘fireworks’. Major General Abbas Ibrahim, head of Lebanon’s General Security Directorate, said, acidly, that it would be ‘naive to describe such an explosion as due to fireworks’.
Hezbollah has begun a whisper campaign, blaming Israel for the explosion. That’s not going to work. Hezbollah, which used to be seen as the one incorruptible entity in Lebanon, lost a lot of its credibility and popularity during the war with Israel and the subsequent government instability is seen as their responsibility.
The blast was devastating. But the aftermath may be even worse, as the people are beginning to blame the explosion on the incompetence and corruption of the government. This is what drove hundreds of thousands of citizens into the streets of Beirut and other major cities before the pandemic hit and is likely to ignite another bout of unrest — pandemic or no pandemic.
The Lebanese people are desperate. After more than a year of political paralysis, the government finally chose new leadership. There is a financial crisis worse than Venezuela’s: worthless currency, inflation, and massive unemployment are making the lives of Lebanese people miserable.
And now this.
Any recovery for Lebanon now will be “massively difficult,” said Rodger Shanahan, a Middle East research fellow at Australia’s Lowy Institute.
“This is the last thing a country like Lebanon needs right now,” Shanahan told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” on Wednesday. “Any country would find this difficult, but with Lebanon having been in the middle of probably the worst financial crisis it’s seen … and now here is another example of slack governance — it just continues to reinforce the average Lebanese citizen’s views that they don’t have a government that can govern properly.”
There are rumors of a food crisis as a huge silo in the port was destroyed and the grain was contaminated. Thousands of people not only lost their homes, but the businesses where they work have also been destroyed. On top of what Lebanon was already experiencing, this will seal the government’s fate.
What replaces it? Some Hezbollah puppet will almost certainly assume power, making Lebanon the second terrorist state in the Middle East. The only blessing is that Lebanon will be prostrate and unable to cause many problems.