By Tum Sokuntararith from CamEd Business School, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
A huge and precedent catastrophe happened centred on the port area of the city shortly after 18:00 (15:00GMT), a huge initial explosion, followed by a series of smaller blasts that sounded like fireworks going off, a few second later, a huge mushroom cloud occurred look like an atomic bomb explosion send supersonic blast wave radiating through the city most likely the explosion of 1000 to 1500 TNT- about a 10th of the intensity of nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 based on the estimation of the university of Sheffield. The officials said that the incident was caused by 2750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely since 2013.
Where did the ammonium nitrate come from?
Reported on BBC news, in 2013 a Moldovan flagged ship, the Rhosus, entered Beirut after suffering technical problems during its journey from Georgia to Mozambique, according to shiparrested.com, which deals with shipping related legal cases. The Rhoseus was inspected, banned from sailing onward and was shortly afterwards abandoned by its owners, sparking several legal claims. Its cargo included the ammonium nitrate, which is used as a fertiliser and as an explosive. It was stored in a port warehouse for safety reasons, the report said, and it remained there for the next six years. Before the explosion, there are a lot of rules around storing ammonium nitrate because it is so highly explosive if it comes into contact with flames but the head of the port and the head of the customs authorities said that they had written to the judiciary several times already to ask to export or sell that chemical substance to ensure the port security.
Beirut people’s reaction
Along with this, protests for more than a week have continued on Beirut’s debris-strewn streets, the protests came as authorities in Lebanon detained 16 people as part of an urgent investigation into the enormous explosion that devastated Beirut’s port area and calling for the removal of the entire political class and reconstructing the country’s political system by sweeping away the corruption and cronyism that have plagued governmental institutions for decades. They thought that this disaster which has hit the labanese at the core, occurred as a result of chronic corruption in politics, administration and the state. But the situation was really serious, protesters clashed with lebanese security forces at anti government demonstrations and officers deployed tear gas on dozens of people near parliament.
Who is to be responsible for this tragedy and what is the government’s decision?
The national news agency reported on Friday: “Entrepreneur Merhi Abou Merhi, the owner of the Orient Queen Cruise ship, has filed a lawsuit against all those responsible for this catastrophic blast. At least two senior officials – the director of the port authority and the general of the customs department- were arrested for the further investigation and another senior security official was also interrogated. However, the investigation did not generate any new information that would change the assumption that the blast is not the result of an attack.
Along with this crisis, based on an NRP report, on Monday Prime Minister Hassan Diab and his cabinet resigned, as it emerged that the blast was likely the result of government negligence. “We will back down and stand with the people. We need to open the door for the people” Prime minister Hassan Diab speech before presenting his resignation in a televised address.
Home, factory hospital and thousands of infrastructure has been destroyed due to the explosion of ammonium nitrate. The streets were filled with the sound of glass being swept up as thousands of people worked together without much support from the official agencies. CDP reported that Dwellings are damaged within a six mile radius and estimates suggest 300 000 are homeless. Others likely have broken windows or minor damage but can still be used. Many buildings with significant architectural, historical and cultural meaning, many of which have been damaged or destroyed. However, Beirut Gov.Marwan abboud estimates the total costs to be $10 and $15 billion, while insured losses could range from $2 billion to $3.5 billion, according to insurance experts.
The most important thing is the country hasn’t recovered from a corona virus breakout yet, the country currently has more than 6,800 COVID-19 cases following a spike in the day prior to and immediately after the blast (1800 cases in the last five days). Thus, the country is suffering from one crisis which causes an economic clash then another crisis just comes along with the previous crisis.
According to the Guardian, “Nearly half of the country’s population lives below the poverty line and 35% are out of work. Electricity blackouts continue to happen as daily, food prices have risen by 80 percent and the national currency has fallen by the same percentage. For the first time in history, Lebanon announced it was defaulting on its debts of $92billion – nearly 170% of its GDP one of the highest debts in the world.
Health and Human Life
The death toll from the deadly blast at the capital’s port area has climbed to 158 with around 6 000 people wounded and 21 still reported missing. The hospital is feeling a strain of so many people needing medical care. But the health sector was short of beds and lacked the equipment necessary to treat the injured and those in critical condition. In spite of death and injury, we should consider another major problem that was created due to the spark of chemical substance to the atmosphere of the capital where hundreds of people live to go into the body of humans through air that they breathe in. People will suffer from invisible diseases caused by those chemical substances. Another thing is due to the financial crisis, loss of lives, people might have a greater chance of suffering from mental illness that can lead to suicidal if we compare to many tragedy occurrences that occurred in the past.
How has the international community responded?
Yacoubian: In his visit to Beirut, French president Macron echoed the demands for change, pledging France’s support for Lebanon- but only if accompanied by deep reforms. An august 9 international donors’ conference spearheaded by France and the United Nations resulted in nearly $300 million in assistance pledges. Signaling the international community’s lack of trust in the Lebanese government, participating leaders called for the assistance to be “directly delivered to the Lebanese population, with utmost efficiency and transparency.” The United States would provide $17 million in emergency assistance including food and medical supplies based on the US Embassy in Beirut announcement. Numerous other countries including Britain, Canada, Turkey and Qatar are providing humanitarian assistance. Israel has also offered aid to Lebanon.
For trade and commerce, the European Union offered preferential trade to Lebanon on Thursday as the Middle Eastern country’s state and central bank face financial meltdown in the wake of the port explosion in Beirut. European commission president Urula Von Der Leyen said the bloc was ready to step in to aid Lebanon with preferential trade and customs backing. She made the announcement after a phone call with Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab in which Von Der Leyen pledged $39 million in emergency aid.
Based on a report on financial times, Donald Trump suggested that the explosion was not an accident. The US president said that he had spoken to some of his top generals who believed that a bomb was responsible for the explosion.
A team of FBI investigators is due to arrive in Lebanon to take part in an investigation into the massive explosion that destroyed Beirut earlier this month. David Hale, the US undersecretary for political affairs, called for a thorough and transparent investigation, adding that the FBI team is taking part at the invitation of Lebanese authorities to find answers about what caused the explosion which killed 170 people and thousands injured. Many Lebanese want the investigation taken out of the hands of their leaders, fearing the bickering among the long- entrenched political factions, notorious for corruption, will not allow any results to come to light that are damaging to their leadership. Hassan Nasralla said the cause of the explosion was still unclear, adding that any international investigation would also have to clear Israel of any responsibility in the port explosion.
In conclusion, the Beirut explosion is considered as one of the greatest disasters in 2020. Throughout many investigations, we hope to see a better understanding of the incident in order to prevent future catastrophe. We would like to pay our deepest condolences for every loss in Beirut.