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Beirut has its own Hiroshima

Beirut 5 Aug 2020 – Who caused homes to be destroyed and loss of life in a city already reeling from economic collapse, Covid19 and a war on its doorstep in Syria?

The economic collapse was caused by the rich taking all their US dollars (Lebanon’s de facto 2nd currency) out of the country. Not since 2006 when Israel was bombing Beirut was there so much destruction and loss of life. People are fearful. Their lives, once again, turned upside down. Military conflict (if that is what caused the blast) during a pandemic is madness. It has to stop! NGOs already stretched to the limit now have yet another burden. It is hard to make any sense of it.

It appears to be a massive ‘industrial accident‘ caused by ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse at the port of Beirut. This disaster was waiting to happen with a corrupt government with poor controls for dangerous chemicals. Lebanon is not alone in this. Israel has dangerous storage of chemicals and nuclear materials near big towns. See Reports below.

Here are the first reports of the blast that caused scores of deaths and thousands injured across the Lebanese capital, Beirut. Early reports say that it is either an industrial accident or a targeted attack by Israel on chemical munitions held at the port. Hezbollah drove Israel out of Lebanon after a 30 year occupation. The 2006 Lebanon War was a 34-day military conflict in Lebanon where 1,191–1,300 Lebanese citizens and 165 Israelis including soldiers were killed. Israeli military forces on the ground fled. Airstrikes by Israel in the region are commonplace to this day.

Thanks to WBT correspondent Ray Bergman for his input

Ian Curr
5 August 2020

Report from Ray Bergman:

While being an industrial accident, one cannot ignore the political,
social and military situation either.
More than half of the people in Lebanon live below the poverty line after a Ponzi scheme run by the Central Bank crashed the Lebanese currency and economy. Government and business corruption, warfare and Coronavirus epidemic have made the country ungovernable, so there are bound to be serious breaches of regulations, failures in reporting of dangerous substances, etc. And given the violence in the region over many years, there are bound to be all sorts of dangerous things stored everywhere without
accountability.

This is a recipe for continuing disasters! (And one can’t totally discount the possibilities of assassination and other political things – next Friday a UN backed international tribunal will deliver its verdict over four men related to Hezbollah who are accused of planting the truck bomb that murdered the former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri some 15 years ago. But the incident might be totally unrelated to that.

Wikipedia has added this disaster to its timeline of major disasters
caused by self-sustaining decomposition, or SSD, of Ammonium nitrate
NPK fertilizers which has also been responsible for the loss of
several cargo ships. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ammonium_nitrate_disasters

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Meanwhile in Teheran:


A huge fire broke out in the industrial city of Jagrod Bardis inTehran, as fire broke out at a power plant in Samnan province, east ofthe capital.
This comes in a series of mysterious events in Iran, which arerepresented by forest fires, power plants, military and nuclearinstallations for about a month and a half, while Tehran has notaccused any specific country of being responsible for it. See https://arabic.rt.com/features/1141079-إيران-الحرائق-تطال-مواقع-عسكرية-ونووية/?fbclid=IwAR3CNYrXGJPKk5STL2V1h78xaDWueuKwTuHoFT1w0egfmOo8YJdibGHJNKE

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And in Syria


In the first week of August 2020, Israeli helicopters have attacked Syrian army positions near Quneitra in the south (near Golan Heights) but caused only material damage. Syrian government media outlet Sana also said ‘air defences had gone into action near the Syrian capital’. Since 2011, Israel has launched hundreds of attacks in Syria, targeting government troops and allied Iranian and Hezbollah forces” – Source: Reuters

Here is a report is from Al Manar which is the media arm of Hezbollah. I have found it impossible to access the Al Manar TV station. The almanr.com.lb report is translated from the arabic (using google, apologies to arabic speakers).

“A loud explosion erupted over all the voices, and a painful accident exceeded all the pain the country was experiencing.

A highly flammable substance that ignited fear in the hearts of the Lebanese people, and shook the country from one extreme to the other … and a bang that brought to mind all the ugliness of the Zionist aggression against Lebanon in these days.

The wounded are spreading the land, victims whose bodies have mixed with the crumbs of the buildings and the remains of the tanks and wards of the Beirut port, and blood flowing to mix with the sea that rose, directed at the height of the explosive wave that covered the country.

In the first data, there was a fire in Amber No. 12 where containers were crackers, so the fire spread to nitrate containers, causing a huge explosion that destroyed the port and damaged the buildings in Beirut and its suburbs, while the sound of the explosion was heard throughout Lebanon.

Throughout history, the voices of dissonance and dancers on the blood in Lebanon, and moving about the investment between all the dust of events. A new fall for some who is not related to media honor, the rise of innocent victims as a result of the accident, and the hospitalization of the injured and injured.” – See https://almanar.com.lb/7045436

One response to “Beirut has its own Hiroshima

  1. The last few days ...

    More reports coming in from Ray Bergman (thanks Ray). It seems the rich (i.e. the banks) took all the $$US offshore … leaving an economic mess behind. Without capital Lebanon cannot recover, it is yet another failed state along with Syria and Iraq. Who brought this about? Why, it was the US, the French and the other imperialists. – Ed. 6th Aug 2020.

    In 2013 Lebanese authorities arrested a ship (https://www.rferl.org/a/reports-link-beirut-s-devastating-blast-to-russian-owned-cargo-ship/30767495.html) that had been abandoned by its owner:

    On 23/9/2013, m/v Rhosus, flying the Moldovian flag, sailed from Batumi Port, Georgia heading to Biera in Mozambique carrying 2,750 tons of Ammonium Nitrate in bulk.

    En route, the vessel faced technical problems forcing the Master to enter Beirut Port.

    Upon inspection of the vessel by Port State Control, the vessel was forbidden from sailing. Most crew except the Master and four crew members were repatriated and shortly afterwards the vessel was abandoned by her owners after charterers and cargo concern lost interest in the cargo. The vessel quickly ran out of stores, bunker and provisions.

    Owing to the risks associated with retaining the Ammonium Nitrate on board the vessel, the port authorities discharged the cargo onto the port’s warehouses. The vessel and cargo remain to date in port awaiting auctioning and/or proper disposal. The ammonium nitrate was stored in a quayside warehouse. See https://www.moonofalabama.org/2020/08/beirut-blast-wrap-up.html#more

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    Boris Prokoshev, who was MV Rhosus’s captain at the time, confirmed in an August 5 interview with RFE/RL that the vessel had been owned by Russian businessman Igor Grechushkin in 2013. Grechushkin is originally from the Siberian city of Khabarovsk, but Grechushkin currently lives in Cyprus.

    Prokoshev also confirmed reports that the vessel had been transporting ammonium nitrate from Georgia’s Black Sea port of Batumi to Mozambique when it experienced technical problems that forced it to stop in Beirut.

    Prokoshev also told RFE/RL the MV Rhosus was a very old vessel that sank two or three years ago because nobody was maintaining the ship. Prokoshev said Grechushkin still owes tens of thousands of U.S. dollars in unpaid wages to him and other crew members. He said all of his attempts to sue Grechushkin in Russia have failed because the businessman no longer resides in Russia.

    Media reports in Russia and Moldova on August 5 said the MV Rhosus had been sailing under the flag of Moldova when it arrived in Beirut.

    Odessitua.com website’s reported that most of the ship’s crew had been Ukrainian sailors who were temporarily stranded in Beirut in 2013 after Grechushkin ran out of funds to pay their salaries or for the ship’s fees.

    Prokoshev described being stranded in Lebanon with the ship’s other unpaid crew members as a form of “incarceration,” saying that Grechushkin had left the crew without any financial or other support.

    He also blamed Lebanese authorities for the massive explosion on August 4. “They should have gotten get rid of the vessel right away instead of confiscating it and demanding fees for harboring it,” Prokoshev told RFE/RL. “Secondly, we are talking about ammonium nitrate here. They could have used it for their [agricultural] fields. Nobody was claiming it, which means it belonged to nobody,” Prokoshev said.

    Lebanese authorities are still investigating the cause of the fire that led to the massive explosion. They have not yet announced what they think was the definitive cause of that fire. However, Lebanon’s LBCI-TV reported on August 5 that, according to preliminary information, the fire that set off the explosion was started accidentally by welders who were closing off a gap that allowed unauthorized entry into the warehouse. See https://www.rferl.org/a/reports-link-beirut-s-devastating-blast-to-russian-owned-cargo-ship/30767495.html

    Update 13:40 UTC:

    RFERL (Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty) spoke with the captain of the ship that had unintentionally brought the ammonium nitrate to Lebanon. He confirms the ship’s arrest. It also reports the cause of the incident:

    Lebanon’s LBCI-TV reported on August 5 that, according to preliminary information, the fire that set off the explosion was started accidentally by welders who were closing off a gap that allowed unauthorized entry into the warehouse. LBCI said sparks from a welder’s torch are thought to have ignited fireworks stored in a warehouse, which in turn detonated the nearby cargo of ammonium nitrate that had been unloaded from the MV Rhosus years earlier. Independent experts say orange clouds that followed the massive blast on August 4 were likely from toxic nitrogen dioxide gas that is released after an explosion involving nitrates. There is a short video of firefighters at the initial fire. Reportedly none survived when the fireworks fire set off the ammonium nitrate. Another video shows the initial fire caused by welding. It burns a while and then sets off fireworks in a first explosion. This takes the roof off the warehouse. A few minutes later the fireworks cause the huge explosion of the ammonium nitrate.

    Reuters provides another detail: The source said a fire had started at port warehouse 9 on Tuesday and spread to warehouse 12, where the ammonium nitrate was stored. That the ammonium nitrate was stored for seven years was not the responsibility of the port management but was caused by some judicial quarrel: The head of Beirut port and the head of customs both said on Wednesday that several letters were sent to the judiciary asking for the dangerous material be removed, but no action was taken. Port General Manager Hassan Koraytem told OTV the material had been put in a warehouse on a court order, adding that they knew then the material was dangerous but “not to this degree”. “We requested that it be re-exported but that did not happen. We leave it to the experts and those concerned to determine why,” Badri Daher, director general of Lebanese Customs, told broadcaster LBCI. Two documents seen by Reuters showed Lebanese Customs had asked the judiciary in 2016 and 2017 to request that the “concerned maritime agency” re-export or approve the sale of the ammonium nitrate, which had been removed from cargo vessel Rhosus and deposited in warehouse 12, to ensure port safety.

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