Following Tuesday’s explosion in Beruit that killed more than 130 people, wounded thousands, and leftover 300,000 people homeless, residents of Beirut pointed fingers at Lebanon’s leaders during a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron, blaming them for the deadly explosion. Officials have estimated losses at $10 billion to $15 billion.
According to a report by Lebanon’s customs chief, the Cabinet was previously warned by a security agency that a stock of explosive chemicals stored at the port was dangerous. The stock of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate had been kept in a warehouse since it was seized from a confiscated cargo ship in 2013. The head of the customs department, Badri Daher, has confirmed to the AP that he sent a letter in 2017 to a judge warning of the danger from the ammonium nitrate and asking for guidance on what to do with the material. He said he and his predecessor sent six letters but never got a reply.
Nonetheless, the investigators are blaming port officials. So far, 16 employees of Beirut’s port, have been detained, while 18 have been questioned, including port and customs officials. After a discussion with Lebanese leaders, France’s Macron declared his country would organize a conference in the next few days with American, European, Middle Eastern, and other donors to raise money for food, medicine, housing, and other urgent aid. He called on them to create a “new political order.”He promised clear and transparent governance so that the aid would go directly to the population and aid groups.
Macron also visited one of the worst-hit neighborhoods, Gemmayzeh, where people expressed their anger. He promised the angry crowd he would propose “a new political pact” when he met the government later. Besides, he promised that French aid would be given out with transparency and would not go into the hands of corruption. Hours after Macron left Gemmayzeh, Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm tried to visit, only to be driven out by protesters who called him a criminal and demanded him to resign.
The investigation into the blast is still ongoing, and authorities have promised to issue results within days. The investigators on Friday will interview the port’s general manager, Hassan Koraytem, and Ghazi Aridi, who was public works and transport minister in 2013 when the ship was confiscated. President Michel Aoun promised whoever was responsible would be punished. Meanwhile, Lebanon has begun receiving Emergency Aid with Arab European and Asian countries sending doctors and medical supplies. The United Nations said Thursday it was releasing $9 million from its emergency fund for Lebanon to support hospitals and intensive care units.