Report: 16 Beirut port officials detained as investigation into deadly explosion resumes

Lebanese authorities detained 16 Beirut port staff members on Thursday, while over a dozen other workers were questioned as part of an investigation into the deadly blast that rocked Lebanon’s capital on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

The investigation, being carried out under the supervision of the Lebanese Army and Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces Information Division, saw Lebanon’s central bank order an asset freeze of several port and customs officials.

The tragedy has put a major pressure on the local authorities to determine who should be held accountable for the explosion, with the country’s Prime Minister vowing to punish the culprits.

The investigative committee has been given four days to complete the investigation, Al Jazeera reports.

On the other hand, some of the local population is blaming the Lebanese government for the tragedy accusing the current leadership of negligence.

The French President Emmanuel Macron visited Beirut yesterday, offering assistance and calling for an international investigation into the explosion.

The EU has also offered an additional € 33 million of aid to Lebanon and mobilized material resources, including firefighters, to help the country save lives and determine the extent of the damage.

The EU has also activated its Copernicus Satellite mapping system to support the Lebanese authorities in assessing the extent of the damage.

The explosion destroyed almost everything in the port and the surrounding area up to a radius of 10 km, sending a shockwave across the city equal to an earthquake of 4.5 on the Richter scale.

The blast is believed to have originated from a chemical storage warehouse where an estimated 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate got ignited. The material has reportedly been confiscated in 2013 from the Moldovan-flagged cargo vessel Rhosus, which failed port state control Inspections. 

The explosive material was stored without proper safety measures and stayed there despite numerous warnings from local officials to move the dangerous material from the port.

CNN reported that the Director of Lebanese Customs requested the dangerous cargo be removed from the port in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.  

On the other hand, the local population is blaming the elite

The death toll which currently stands at over 130 hundred people is likely to further increase over the coming days, according to the Lebanese Red Cross. Around 5,000 people are said to have been injured.

The Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines said the number of Filipinos injured following the blasts in Beirut is now at 31.

“We are saddened by the latest turn of developments. The higher figure comes as our Embassy personnel work to ascertain the condition of the Filipinos in its jurisdiction,“ said Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Lou Y. Arriola.

Aside from those injured, the Philippine Embassy Beirut also confirmed the number of deaths to four, while the status of the missing household service worker remains as is.

“Two Filipinos remain in critical condition. They are confined and are being monitored at Rizk Hospital,” reported Philippine Embassy Beirut Charge d’affaires Ajeet Panemanglor.

Container shipping majors like Maersk, MSC, Hapag-Lloyd and MSC reported that their offices in Beirut were significantly damaged. However, none of the companies’ ships were affected by the blast.

Based on the latest update from CMA CGM, one of their workers who had been reported missing has been confirmed dead. The company is in the process of determining the whereabouts and health and safety of its 261 workers based in Beirut.

The French major said earlier that several of its staff members were injured, two of them in critical condition.

“We can confirm that our office in Lebanon has been seriously damaged and the extent of the damage is still being assessed. At the time of blast, three of our colleagues were present in the office and were lightly injured in the Lebanese capital Beirut and have been subsequently taken to hospital for medical check-up and treatment. Their condition is good and we are closely monitoring their recovery,” Maersk said.

“At the time of the blast there was no Maersk vessel at the port of Beirut, which seems to be where the explosion originated from, however Maersk containers were present in the port and we are doing our utmost to assess the scale of potential damage and the impact to any equipment and cargo of our valued customers.”

The port in Beirut remains closed for the next few weeks, and the majority of traffic is being re-routed to the port in Tripoli.

The port is under the control of the Lebanese Armed Forces and no civilians may enter, as the extent of the damage caused to the port’s infrastructure is being assessed. 

A State of Emergency has been declared until August 18.

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