Lebanese Military Discovers More Dangerous Chemicals at Beirut Port

Rows of damaged cranes stand at the site of the Aug. 4 deadly blast in the port of Beirut that killed scores and wounded thousands as the sun sets over the capital Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

The Lebanese military released a statement on Monday that said teams of its investigators, assisted by French experts, have discovered 25 containers of hydrochloric acid and 54 containers of other dangerous materials at the Port of Beirut, which was devastated on August 4 by a massive explosion blamed on an improperly stored stockpile of ammonium nitrate.

The Lebanese Army statement warned that leakage of these additional chemicals could have “catastrophic” results. Army engineers previously discovered 20 containers of toxic material with potentially dangerous leaks that firefighters quickly secured.

Other regional port authorities are understandably apprehensive about the danger of a Beirut-style blast. Mustafa Sanallah, chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corporation, warned last week that several of Libya’s ports are at risk of explosions from dangerous chemicals, in this case ammonia gas – a risk that is especially acute with hot weather and ongoing factional fighting that involves plenty of explosives ordnance. Sanallah worried that Libya’s ports of Brega, Ras Lanuf, and Sidra have much larger stockpiles of potentially explosive material than the Port of Beirut did.

The Washington Post found nervous officials eyeing their own risky stockpiles of combustible chemicals at ports in Senegal, Egypt, India, and Romania.

Romanian officials decided to crack down on improperly stored ammonium nitrate and found nine thousand tons of it scattered around the country, about four times the amount that blew up half of Beirut. Dismayed Senegalese port officials realized they were stuck with an uncomfortable amount of ammonium nitrate because their Dakar port provides the main shipping route to Mali, a country whose borders have been closed due to political upheaval.

As for Lebanon, the political situation appears all too stable. The UK Guardian observed on Tuesday that despite widespread anticipation of political reform after hundreds of people were killed and injured by the ultimate wake-up call, Lebanon’s ruling class appears to remain firmly in power, each faction unwilling to surrender any power or shoulder the blame for the Beirut blast.

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