Lebanon to put some Beirut port officials under house arrest

Lebanon to put some Beirut port officials under house arrest

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Print this page Email A Friend!


BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) — Investigators began searching the wreckage of Beirut's port Wednesday for clues to the cause of the massive explosion that ripped across the Lebanese capital the day before, and the government ordered port officials put under house arrest.

International aid flights began to arrive, as Lebanon's leaders struggled to deal with the aftermath of Tuesday's blast, the crippling effects of an economic crisis and facing a public where many already blame chronic mismanagement and corruption among the ruling elite for the disaster.

The explosion at the port killed at least 100 people and wounded thousands. Hospitals were overwhelmed — one that was damaged in the blast had to evacuate all its patients to a nearby field for treatment. Buildings were damaged for miles around the city, and Beirut's governor said Wednesday that hundreds of thousands might not be able to return to their homes for two or three months.

Meanwhile, an official letter surfaced online showing that the head of the customs department had warned repeatedly over the years that a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate stored in a hangar in the port was a danger and asked for a way to remove it.

Ammonium nitrate is a component of fertiliser that is potentially explosive. The 2,750-ton cargo had been stored at the port since it was confiscated from a ship in 2013, and on Tuesday it is believed to have detonated after a fire broke out nearby.

The resulting explosion — hitting with the force of a 3.5-magnitude earthquake — was the biggest ever seen in Beirut, a city blasted by a 1975-1990 civil war, bombarded in conflicts with Israel and hit by periodic terror attacks.

The 2017 letter from the custom's chief to a judge could not be immediately confirmed. If authentic, it could deepen the belief already expressed by some Lebanese that widespread mismanagement, negligence and corruption among the country's ruling class is to blame for the explosion.

President Michael Aoun vowed before a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday that the investigation would be transparent and that those responsible will be punished.

"There are no words to describe the catastrophe that hit Beirut last night," he said.

After the meeting, the Cabinet ordered an unspecified number of Beirut port officials put under house arrest pending an investigation into how the ammonium nitrate came to be stored at the port for years. The government also declared a two-week state of emergency, effectively giving the military full powers during this time.


Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaper-login


ADVERTISEMENT




POST A COMMENT

HOUSE RULES

1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper � email addresses will not be published.

2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.

3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.

4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.

5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed: advertising@jamaicaobserver.com.

6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email: community@jamaicaobserver.com.

7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy



comments powered by Disqus
ADVERTISEMENT

Poll

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Today's Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon
ADVERTISEMENT