Deadly Explosion Devastates Beirut; Fault Lines Exposed in Lebanese Government


Gianna Schiavo, Staff Writer

BEIRUT, LEBANON- On August 4th, 2020, the Beirut port suffered a terrible blow that would impact thousands, and finally expose a government that is widely considered to be corrupt.  The people of Lebanon have been calling for political reform since October of 2019, but only now have they captured the full attention of the world.  

 Investigative reporting done by the New York Times revealed that the explosion was accidental, as there was welding being done in the warehouse on the day of the explosion.  Ammonium nitrate, a compound used in explosives, was one of the factors that contributed to the explosion in the Beirutt port, and was reportedly being stored alongside 15 tons of fireworks, five miles of fuse, and jugs of oil and kerosene. 

The ammonium nitrate had been stored in the warehouse since November of 2013, when a Moldovan ship, which was both indebted and leaking, sailed into the Beirut port carrying 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate. While the ship was not originally supposed to be stopping in Beirut, it was ordered to make an additional stop to pick up cargo that was supposed to go to Jordan.  Before the ship could leave for Jordan, however, two companies filed lawsuits against the ship, so the Lebanese courts ordered the ship to stay in the port. When the ship’s captain decided to abandon the ship in Beirut, the 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate on board were left as well. 

On the day of the explosion, dark grey puffs of smoke emerged from the warehouse. Small popping bursts spattered the air, and a blinding flash from the ammonium nitrate followed. An enormous orange and black cloud surfaced from the blazing building. However, it was the shockwave following the blast that devastated Beirut. Huge buildings crumbled and debris flew in all directions. People frantically tried to protect themselves from the falling debris, but there was no place to escape from the scene that was unfolding around them. With 100,000 people living within a mile of hangar 12, the explosion left 200 people dead, 6,000 injured, and countless others now homeless. 

Prior to the explosion, it was widely believed that the Lebanese government was a corrupt, money driven system. However, the explosion indicated to the Lebanese people just how deep the perceived corruption runs. Multiple sources have confirmed that the Lebanese government was aware of the presence of the explosives and highly flammable substances, but chose to do nothing about it. 

The explosion in the port of Beirut reminded the world that profound tragedy and disaster can strike when the people in power are more concerned with their own agendas. The explosion in the port of Beirut was a disaster bound to strike if not on August 4th, then only in a matter of time. 


Disclaimer: Articles drawn upon coverage from the New York Times, BBC News, and Britannica.