On September 3rd, the Lebanese Army announced that its army engineering regiment discovered 4.8 tons of ammonium nitrate during an inspection of four containers conducted at the request of Beirut port’s customs authorities at entrance number nine.
The military units “are working to handle” the issue, the statement said.
Now, 4.8 tons may sound like a lot, but the August 4th explosion was reportedly the result of 2,900 tons of ammonium nitrate catching fire.
The substance was brought to Lebanon in November 2013 when Moldovan-flagged cargo ship MV Rhosus docked in Beirut amid maintenance issues. The vessel was ultimately abandoned and Lebanese authorities left its cargo to decay at the port’s warehouse 12, where the explosion is understood to have originated.
Days after the blast, French and Italian chemical experts working amid the remains of the port identified more than 20 containers carrying dangerous chemicals.
The explosion led to at least 190 deaths, at least 6,000 injured, and billions in destruction, and left at least 300,000 homeless.
In addition to the blast’s humanitarian and economic woes that compound Lebanon’s existing financial crisis, it led to renewed protests against the Lebanese government, which led to the Prime Minister and the entirety of the government resigning.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s successor, Mustapha Adib, promised on August 31st to “heal our nation and to restore people’s hope in a better tomorrow.”
The latest discovery comes amid an influx of international aid workers and a series of high-profile visits of officials from across the globe. French President Emmanuel Macron has visited twice in the past 30 days.
So far, authorities have detained 25 people over last month’s explosion, most of them port and customs officials.
The UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) warned that ore than half of Lebanon’s population risk facing a food crisis in the aftermath of the explosion.
“More than half of the country’s population is at risk of failing to access their basic food needs by the year’s end,” the ESCWA said.
“Immediate measures should be taken to prevent a food crisis,” ESCWA executive secretary, Rola Dashti, said.
Separately, in a positive development, Lebanese rescue workers detected signs of life in the debris on September 3rd, almost exactly 1 month after the explosion.
A rescue worker said that they had detected signs of life in a building that had collapsed after the explosion.
He said that a team with a rescue dog had detected movement under a destroyed building in the Gemmayze area of Beirut, one of the worst hit by the blast.
“These (signs of breathing and pulse) along with the temperature sensor means there is a possibility of life,” rescue worker Eddy Bitar told reporters at the scene.
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