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Report: Welders Set Off Beirut Blast While Securing Explosive Cargo

beirut
Image courtesy Iran's Mehr News (CC BY 4.0)

By The Maritime Executive 08-10-2020 07:58:17

Multiple sources have reported that the disastrous explosion at Port of Beirut was sparked by hot work at a warehouse where officials had stored 2,750 tonnes of confiscated ammonium nitrate and a cache of fireworks. In a new report, senior officials provided Reuters with additional details: early this year they had learned that one of the warehouse's doors was broken, raising the risk that a malicious actor could steal this dangerous explosives-grade cargo. The port's welding contractors set off the cache while trying to repair the door to protect the cache.

According to the report, the security investigation that set this chain in motion began in January after the broken door and a large hole in the warehouse's wall were discovered. On June 4 - six months later - state security forces ordered the port to guard the warehouse and make appropriate repairs. On August 4 - two months after the order - the port sent a team of Syrian workers to fix the warehouse. Sparks from their welding work ignited a supply of fireworks, which had been stored next to the ammonium nitrate cache.

Reuters reports that the prime minister and the president of Lebanon were informed of the security lapses at the site.

Lebanese government resigns and continues to serve

On Monday, Lebanese prime minister Hassan Diab tendered his resignation to Lebanon's president, Michel Aoun, who accepted his resignation and immediately appointed him caretaker prime minister. The rest of the current government's ministers are also expected to continue to serve in a caretaker capacity, including three who resigned in protest over the past several days.

"I declare today the resignation of this government. May God protect Lebanon," Diab said in a televised statement. “This disaster is the result of chronic corruption. The corruption network is bigger than the state.”

Protests calling for the replacement of the government continued after Diab's resignation speech. The confrontation has been marked by violence: more than 700 people have been injured in clashes with state security forces over the course of the past week, including many who have been hit by birdshot pellets and less-than-lethal munitions.