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Lebanon: Dangerous chemicals still in Beirut

Destroyed buildings in Beirut, Lebanon on 6 August, 2020 [Mahmut Geldi/Anadolu Agency]
Destroyed buildings are seen after a fire at a warehouse with explosives at the Port of Beirut led to massive blasts on 6 August 2020 [Mahmut Geldi/Anadolu Agency]

At least 20 dangerous chemicals have been discovered in Beirut’s port, including one which is leaking, according to a report by the Associated Press (AP).

Local and international rescue personnel have been working to secure the port since last week’s massive explosion, caused when a stockpile of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate ignited, which has left over 200 dead and more than 6,000 injured.

Amid the devastation, French and Italian teams have been securing the ports’ remaining containers and have so far discovered more than 20 places where dangerous chemicals have been stored, a French chemical expert has claimed, according to AP.

The expert was unable to identify the chemicals involved but added that at least one of the containers had been punctured, potentially during Tuesday’s blast, and was leaking.

Adding that some of the 20 chemicals had been stored alongside batteries, increasing the possibility of another explosion.

“There are also other flammable liquids in other containers, there are also batteries, or other kinds of products which could increase the risk of potential explosion,” the French chemicals expert was quoted by AP as saying.

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The French and Italian teams, however, have only been working on one area of the port and it remains unclear if other potentially dangerous chemicals are being stored in other zones.

An investigation by the National, meanwhile, has unearthed that fireworks were stored in the same warehouse as the 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, despite several warnings of the danger this posed.

Director General of Beirut Customs, Badri Daher, reportedly wrote to Lebanon’s “judge of urgent matters” in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 warning of the danger and asking for the substance to be re-exported or sold off.

Lebanon is one long tale of disaster and crisis - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Lebanon is one long tale of disaster and crisis – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

As recently as last month, Lebanon’s top officials, including Prime Minister Hassan Diab and President Michel Aoun, were warned that substance was stored improperly in Beirut’s port, but failed to take action.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has claimed a US contractor that worked with the US Army noticed the danger posed by the tonnes of potentially explosive material stored in Beirut four years ago, despite the US administration claiming they had no prior knowledge of the danger.

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