Beirut explosion: Anti-government protests escape in city

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Protesters clashed with Lebanese security forces at anti-government demonstrations in Beirut on Thursday.Officers deployed tear gas on dozens of individuals near parliament.

Demonstrators were angered by Tuesday’s devastating blast, which officials say was caused by 2,750 tonnes of nitrate stored unsafely since 2013.

Many in Lebanon say government negligence led to the explosion, which killed a minimum of 137 people and injured about 5,000 others.

The explosion destroyed entire districts within the capital, with homes and businesses reduced to rubble. Dozens of individuals are still unaccounted for.

The state press agency says 16 people are taken into custody as a part of an investigation announced by the govt in the week .

Since the disaster two officials have resigned. MP Marwan Hamadeh stepped down on Wednesday, while Lebanon’s ambassador to Jordan Tracy Chamoun stepped down on Thursday, saying the catastrophe showed the necessity for a change in leadership.

The state press agency says 16 people are taken into custody as a part of an investigation announced by the govt in the week .

Since the disaster two officials have resigned. MP Marwan Hamadeh stepped down on Wednesday, while Lebanon’s ambassador to Jordan Tracy Chamoun stepped down on Thursday, saying the catastrophe showed the necessity for a change in leadership.

A city of sirens, empty buildings and empty streets

This port was Lebanon’s lifeline to the entire world. Something like 80% of the country’s grain came through here. The grain silos, which were built way back when, are teetering. Just beyond there I can see a ship listing heavily. I’ve lived in Beirut for five years and it is a lmost unrecognisable – it’s a city of sirens, of empty buildings, of empty streets.

As I check out the neighbourhood of Gemmayze just behind the port, i can not see one pane of glass left. Entire roofs have gone – I can see friends’ apartments, which are just hospitable the sky now. All of this area, which was really heavily populated, has been abandoned. No-one is returning here any time soon.

What’s really noticeable as you walk the streets here is that each person seems to possess a brush in their hand. There are clear-up teams everywhere, but it’s pretty low tech: tiny teams of individuals with pans and brushes to wash up an a whole city’s devastation.

The thing that basically strikes me is how enormously stupid it had been , what culpable negligence it took to go away this highly explosive material right within the very heart of this city, within yards of individuals , their homes, their businesses. and therefore the authorities here knew – that they had been warned that these chemicals were dangerous which they were an excellent risk to Beirut and Lebanon.

Where did the nitrate come from?
In 2013 a Moldovan-flagged ship, the Rhosus, entered Beirut port after suffering technical problems during its journey from Georgia to Mozambique, consistent with Shiparrested.com, which deals with shipping-related legal cases.

The Rhosus was inspected, banned from sailing onward and was shortly afterwards abandoned by its owners, sparking several legal claims.

Its cargo included the nitrate , which is employed as a fertiliser and as an explosive.It was stored during a port warehouse for safety reasons, the report said, and it remained there for subsequent six years.

There are tons of rules around storing nitrate , particularly around fire-proofing, because it’s so highly explosive if it comes into contact with flames.

The head of the port and therefore the head of the customs authority said that that they had written to the judiciary several times asking that the chemical be exported or sold on to make sure port safety.

Port head Hassan Koraytem told OTV that they had been aware that the fabric was dangerous when a court first ordered it stored within the warehouse, “but to not this degree”.

Source: bbc news

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