By Leticia Afecia
Lebanon is mourning after a huge explosion ripped through the city’s port of Beirut and surrounding areas on Tuesday, August 4, killing at least 135 people and injuring over 5,000, the Guardian has reported.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate, which is typically used as an agricultural fertilizer, had been stored for six years at a port warehouse without safety measures, “endangering the safety of citizens,” according to a statement.
Ammonium Nitrate, that is also used as an explosive for mining, has also been used as a key component in improvised explosives, notably in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, in the 2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia, and by far-right Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik in his 2011 shooting and bombing attack, according to CNN.
The Lebanese Community in Liberia has extended thanks and appreciation to the people of Liberia for the kind sentiments and solidarity with the people of Lebanon in “these difficult and disastrous times.”
“Special thanks to the government of Liberia, Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe, Honorable Gbezongar Milton Findley, Commissioner Robert Budy (LIS), GM George E. Henries, all Masons & Sisters, the Indian Community in Liberia, the Liberia Chamber of Commerce and our friends.
May GOD save our two beloved Nations,” the group posted on its official social media page.
Initial reports in state media blamed the blast on a major fire at a firecrackers warehouse near the port, that likely spread to nearby buildings. However, the Prime Minister’s account appeared to be backed by Lebanon’s General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim, who said a “highly explosive material” had been confiscated years earlier and stored in the warehouse, just minutes’ walk from Beirut’s shopping and nightlife districts.
Beirut governor Marwan Abboud, according to CGTN Africa, told a local radio station that more than 100 people remain missing, including several firefighters, as at least 300,000 people have been displaced. “Beirut has never gone through what it went through yesterday,” he said.
The Guardian reported that a Lebanese Red Cross official said on Wednesday morning the death toll had reached at least 130, with smoke still rising from the port and downtown streets littered with upturned cars and the ruins of shattered buildings.
“What we are witnessing is a huge catastrophe,” the head of Lebanon’s Red Cross George Kettaneh told a local broadcaster. “There are victims and casualties everywhere.”
Soldiers were at the site clearing rubble and helicopters were passing over dropping water to put out the blazing remains.
Hospitals were still overrun with wounded people and others searching for loved ones, with pages springing up online listing pictures of the missing and begging for information about their whereabouts.
Governor Abboud on Wednesday estimated that the deadly blasts cost the city 3 to 5 billion U.S. dollars in material losses, the National News Agency reported.
Meanwhile, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has ordered local authorities to dispatch two airplanes loaded with medical aid to Lebanon to assist in its efforts to recover from the devastating explosion.
Tunisia said it will also send an aid package to Lebanon, a statement from the presidency on Wednesday said.