Deadly Explosion In Beirut Shakes Lebanon’s Already Fragile Position

Lebanon is in mourning following a deadly explosion that ripped through the city’s port on Tuesday  August 4th, at around 6pm local time. Although recorded casualties are growing, it is believed that at the time of writing, there has been at least 100 deaths and 4000 people injured. As the death toll rises, hospitals are said to be overwhelmed, and countless buildings have been destroyed. Following the explosion, which originated in a warehouse that was believed to contain approximately 2750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, the government has said they will release 100 billion lira (£50.5 million) of emergency funds. President Michel Aoun also declared a three-day mourning period, starting on Wednesday August 5th.

The blast was believed to have been as a result of highly explosive materials that had been stored in a warehouse for six years, with President Michel Aoun tweeting that it was “unacceptable” that such dangerous materials were stored unsafely for such a long time. An investigation is under way to find the exact trigger for the explosion. Lebanon’s Supreme Defence Council said those responsible would face the “maximum punishment” possible. In the meantime, Beirut and the rest of Lebanon are in shock at the explosion, and the loss of so many loved ones.

The explosion comes at a sensitive time for Lebanon, with an economic crisis reigniting old divisions. The blasts also destroyed wheat in the port’s granaries, prompting fears of looming food shortages across a nation already suffering bread shortages and paralyzed by both coronavirus and an economic meltdown. That being said, the most immediate fear was the casualties, as the health system had already been heavily strained due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In the aftermath of the blast, thousands sought treatment in nearby hospitals, namely St George’s hospital, which was less than 2km from the blast, but had been destroyed. Subsequently, a doctor from the hospital said he was treating people outside in the street. Many victims of the blast had been taken for treatment outside the city, as Beirut hospitals were overwhelmed with casualties. Ambulances from both the north and south of the country have been called to help.

The international community’s response has been supportive, with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeting the pictures and videos from Beirut tonight are shocking. All of my thoughts and prayers are with those caught up in this terrible incident.” US President Donald Trump sent his sympathies after what he called “a terrible attack”, which fuelled further confusion over the explosion. Israel denied any responsibility, further offering both humanitarian and medical aid. His Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered assistance, tweeting: “We are monitoring and stand ready to assist the people of Lebanon as they recover from this horrible tragedy.”

As the investigation into the causes of the explosion continue, the final death toll is expected to climb significantly as rescue teams begin searching the damaged buildings. Meanwhile, the country must unite in mourning over this shocking event.

Hope Oxley Green