Lebanon's army finds 4.35 tonnes more explosive chemicals near Beirut port
Lebanon's army said on Thursday it had found 4.35 tonnes of ammonium nitrate near the entrance to the Beirut port, the site of a huge blast last month caused by a large stockpile of the same highly explosive chemical.
Lebanese army engineers were "dealing with it", according to an army statement carried by the state news agency NNA. The statement said the chemicals were found outside entrance nine to the port.
Army experts were called in for an inspection and found 4.35 tonnes of the dangerous chemical in four containers stored near the port, according to the military. There were no details on the origin of the chemicals or their owner.
The revelation came nearly a month after a catastrophic explosion on August 4 ripped through the city, killing around 190 people. The authorities said it was caused by about 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been stacked in unsafe conditions in a port warehouse for years.
The blast smashed entire neighbourhoods, gutting buildings and injuring 6,000 people.
Beirut blast aftermath: destruction, chaos and rescue
A powerful explosion rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut, killing at least 100 people and injuring thousands more. Hospitals quickly filled beyond capacity and there have been appeals for people to give blood. By Darko Janjevic
Panic in Beirut: two immense blasts shook Beirut and the surrounding areas of the Lebanese capital, prompting panic as residents rushed to safety. "I have never in my life seen a disaster this big," Beirut's governor told local TV
Blasts felt on city's outskirts: the explosions, centred in Beirut's port region, were felt throughout the capital. Even residents on the city's outskirts reported hearing the blast, with some saying their windows were shattered
Dozens killed, thousands injured: Lebanon's Health Ministry said at least 100 people were killed and more than 4,000 others were injure
"Unacceptable" ammonium nitrate stock: Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that a large stockpile of 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate in a warehouse at the port had caused the second, larger explosion. "It is unacceptable that a shipment of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate has been present for six years in a warehouse, without taking preventive measures," Diab said
Race to save survivors: more than 30 Red Cross teams raced to the scene, with many locals lending a hand to aid rescue efforts. Hospitals warned that they were quickly filled beyond capacity — and called for blood donations as well as generators to help keep the electricity on
Felt as far away as Cyprus: the blasts struck with the force of a 3.5 magnitude earthquake, according to Germany's geosciences center GFZ. Residents in Cyprus, some 180 km across the sea from Beirut, reported hearing and feeling the blast
People are "asking for their loved ones": Deutsche Welle's Bassel Aridi said people were using social media to try to track down their loved ones after the explosions. Aridi also visited a hospital in Beirut after the blasts. "What I saw in the hospital was so dramatic. All the hospitals have announced that they are totally overloaded"
Two-week state of emergency: Lebanese authorities fear many more people are buried beneath rubble. President Michel Aoun scheduled an emergency Cabinet meeting for Wednesday and said a two-week state of emergency should be declared
Lebanon faces double-blow: the devastating blasts come as Lebanon experiences severe economic turbulence, with many people taking to the streets in recent months to protest the financial situation. Prime Minister Hassan Diab declared that Wednesday would be a national day of mourning for the victims of the explosion
International experts and investigators helping Lebanon
Days after the August 4 blast, French and Italian chemical experts working amid the remains of the port identified more than 20 containers carrying dangerous chemicals. The army later said that these containers were moved and stored safely in locations away from the port.
French experts as well as the FBI are aiding the investigation into the blast, at the request of Lebanese authorities. Their findings have yet to be released.
So far, authorities have detained 25 people over last month's explosion, most of them port and customs officials.
Lebanon's government quit amid public anger in a nation already brought to its knees by an economic crisis. The public remains anxious that more hazardous materials are being stored badly, putting them at risk.
Earlier this week, French President Emmanuel Macron visited Lebanon for the second time since the deadly Beirut port blast. During his 24-hour visit, Macron called for reforms aimed at dragging the Middle East nation out of a financial abyss.
"No explosion awaiting us"
On Thursday, Lebanese President Michel Aoun ordered repairs to be made to old refuelling infrastructure at Beirut airport and called for an investigation into a report that thousands of litres of fuel had leaked from the system.
Beirut airport head Fadi el-Hassan told a news conference earlier on Thursday that a leak of 84,000 litres of fuel had occurred in March 2019 and repairs were completed in two months. He said international investigators had described the repairs as "satisfactory".
News of the leak added to concerns about public safety. "No explosion is awaiting us," Hassan told the news conference. (FRANCE 24/AP/REUTERS)