Udayavni Special

Beirut fire brought under control after


Team Udayavani, Sep 11, 2020, 7:35 PM IST

Beirut:  White smoke rose from the smouldering wreckage of Beirut’s port on Friday hours after firefighters extinguished a huge fire that terrified the city’s residents five weeks after a massive blast killed nearly 200 people and destroyed parts of Lebanon’s capital.

It wasn’t clear what caused the raging fire that broke out Thursday afternoon and covered the city with dark smoke and toxic fumes for hours, as firefighters and army helicopters struggled to bring it under control. No one was hurt by the fire, the second at the port this week.

Caretaker Minister of Public Works and Transpiration Michel Najjar, whose ministry is in charge of the port, told a local TV station the fire appears to have been caused by sparks from a power tool during work at the port. The claim has been dismissed by an outraged and deeply sceptic public, with some accusing authorities of starting the fire to destroy evidence that may be found in the port wreckage.

The fire led authorities to say they have ordered the removal of dangerous materials from the country’s ports and airport to avoid more such incidents that have traumatized the nation of 5 million. Military police opened an investigation into the fire.

The head of Lebanon’s Civil Defense said Friday the fire was extinguished and firefighters were working to cool down the area of the blaze.

On Thursday, as smoke began pouring from the facility, Beirut residents opened their apartment windows and hid in corridors fearing a repeat of the Aug. 4, blast that killed 192, wounded 6,500, left a quarter-million people homeless and caused damage worth billions of dollars. The explosion of nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at the port for six years forced the government to resign six days alter.

The port explosion is still under investigation and negligence and mismanagement appear to be the main reason.

Corruption is widespread in Lebanon, where the ruling class made up of sectarian groups has been running the country with impunity since the end of the 15-year civil war in 1990.

“The fire at the port of Beirut cannot be justified no matter what. Accountability is a main condition that such painful incidents are not repeated,” Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib wrote in a tweet Friday.

 

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