• Isabelle Osborne

Explosion in Beirut, Lebanon: August 2020

On August 4th, a huge explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, killed hundreds of people, in addition to destroying homes and buildings. The blast killed at least 100 hundred people, and injured more than 4,000 others. More than a hundred people are missing.

Local hospitals are overwhelmed by the amount of casualties, which were already struggling to cope with the amount of COVID-19 cases. The country is now enduring another crisis in addition to the global health pandemic.

President Michel Aoun claimed the blast was caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely in a warehouse, a fertiliser used in agriculture and as an explosive. Philip Ingram, a former British intelligence officer, has said that ammonium nitrate could only be turned into an explosive substance under certain circumstances, and when in a confined space and contaminated with items such as fuel oil could cause an explosion.

This explosion comes at a time of economic difficulty for Lebanon - tens of thousands of people are experiencing poverty, their currency is collapsing, and thousands are unemployed. The pandemic has only exacerbated these issues. The country imports most of its food, but large quantities of grain stored in the port have been destroyed. The President has declared that the economic impact of this explosion will be long-lasting, as infrastructure has been devastated and the port of Beirut may need to be shut down, leading to a lack of medical and food supplies entering the country.

Lebanon is also facing hostile international relations, as suggested by the tension on the border with Israel which last week saw an attempt to infiltrate Israeli territory by Hezbollah (a militant Shia Islamist organisation that holds considerable power in Lebanon). However, a senior Israeli official has told the BBC that "Israel has no connection" to the Beirut blast.

The situation is ongoing.

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Featured image courtesy of Markus Winkler on Unsplash. Image license can be found here. No changes were made to this image.