Lebanon arrests port officials over Beirut explosion

Lebanon arrests port officials over Beirut port explosion 

 

A number of Beirut port officials have been placed under house arrest pending an investigation into Tuesday’s huge explosion, Lebanon’s government says.

The blast killed at least 135 people and injured more than 5,000 others. A two-week state of emergency has begun.

President Michel Aoun said the blast was caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely in a warehouse.

Customs chief Badri Daher said his agency called for the chemical to be removed, but “this did not happen”.

“We leave it to the experts to determine the reasons,” he said.

Ammonium nitrate is used as a fertiliser in agriculture and as an explosive.

Opening an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday, President Aoun said, “No words can describe the horror that has hit Beirut last night, turning it into a disaster-stricken city”.

The ammonium nitrate had reportedly been in a warehouse in Beirut port for six years after it was unloaded from a ship impounded in 2013.

The head of Beirut port and the head of the customs authority both told local media that they had written to the judiciary several times asking that the chemical be exported or sold to ensure port safety.

Port General Manager Hassan Koraytem told OTV that they had been aware that the material was dangerous when a court first ordered it stored in the warehouse, “but not to this degree”