Lebanon, explosion in Beirut's port

300,000 homeless after explosion in Lebanon

The explosion that devastated the Lebanese capital, Beirut, has dealt a severe blow to a country going through a difficult crisis.

The terrible explosion that devastated the centre of Beirut on Tuesday, which according to the authorities has left some 300,000 people homeless and caused damage of up to 5,000 million dollars, has dealt a very severe blow to Lebanon, a country that was already going through a difficult situation by a severe economic crisis aggravated by the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the latest balance, the massive explosion in the port of the Lebanese capital has left some 100 dead and more than 4,000 injured, most of them due to glass cuts but many also extremely serious, although the Lebanese authorities have already warned that the figure of casualties will likely increase as rescue teams gain access to affected areas.

The power of the detonation was such that it created an atomic mushroom and generated an earthquake of about 4 degrees on the Richter scale, creating a gigantic shock wave that destroyed buildings for several kilometres around and threw many victims into the sea. Many of the deceased are employees of the port and customs, as well as people who worked in the area near the port or who simply passed over there with their cars during rush hour.

A catastrophe for Beirut and for Lebanon

It’s like a war zone. I have no words,” declared Beirut Mayor Jamal Itani, inspecting the disaster area, where all the buildings next to the port have collapsed. “This is a catastrophe for Beirut and for Lebanon,” he said.

Not surprisingly, the port of Beirut is the largest cargo loading and unloading area in the country: around 70% of commercial import and export traffic passes through this port. Located in a strategic point that connects the markets of Europe, Asia and Africa, the port has direct routes with 56 countries. While its reconstruction arrives, the Lebanese government has ordered to prepare the port of Tripoli as a substitute.

The tragedy has been the last blow for the already difficult situation in Lebanon, plagued by a deep economic crisis since 2018 and by the growing political polarisation of a country that was once known as the “Switzerland of the Middle East“, and that already before Tuesday’s explosion was on the brink of financial collapse.

Lebanese economy minister Raoul Nehme also warned on Wednesday of a new problem: the explosion destroyed most of the country’s grain reserves. According to Nehme, Lebanon has reserves only for “a little less than a month”, well below the three months necessary to guarantee the food security of its population.

On the other hand, the governor of Beirut, Marwan Abboud, has announced that the explosion -caused by the inadequate storage for 6 years of almost 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate– has left some 300,000 people homeless, and caused damage to buildings in the city ​​valued at nearly $5 billion. “Maybe more,” he warned.