The blame game among Lebanese officials and politicians quickly began before many victims killed in the Beirut explosions were laid to rest.
While no official investigation results have been released or determined, Lebanon’s top officials admitted that there were 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at the Port of Beirut.
The explosion, which rocked Lebanon and was felt as far away as Cyprus, has been described as one of the most powerful blasts in history.
Pictures, videos and accounts shared by residents showed the massive mushroom cloud over Beirut after the explosions on Tuesday.
Lebanon’s president, prime minister, interior minister and other top security officials said that the thousands of tons of chemicals stored at the Port of Beirut had been there since 2014.
Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi referred questions to Customs chief Badri Daher, in an apparent reference that he was to blame.
Contacted by Al Arabiya English, Daher said Harbor Master of Beirut Port Mohammad el Mawla was responsible for allowing the shipment into Lebanon.
“He allowed it to dock at the end of 2013, beginning of 2014. Why did he allow it to enter, and why was it allowed to unload in Warehouse 12?” Daher asked, referring to the hangar where the ammonium nitrate was reportedly stored.
Daher claimed that at least five complaints were sent to Lebanese judges regarding the danger of storing such chemicals between him and his predecessor. “They [judges] never responded and this is not even my prerogative to interfere in,” Daher said.
He said questions should be asked to the Public Works and Transportation Ministry, which oversees the port employees.
Neither Mawla nor Public Works Minister Michel Najar was able to be reached for comment.
While the cause remains unclear and reports surface of a possible act of sabotage, Lebanese residents are boiling with frustration at the government and political elite.
“They try to kill us time and time again. First, they poison our food and water with trash in the streets and pollution in the air. Then they try to place in wars that we do not want to be a part of. And finally, they store an unimaginable amount of explosive devices in an area where we all work and hang out to wipe us out,” a 25-year-old local resident who works in Downtown Beirut told Al Arabiya English.
Earlier in the day, Daher told LBCI that he was never granted permission to re-export the ammonium nitrate.
Blasts at the port shook Beirut Tuesday night, and over 130 deaths have been reported and thousands injured. Property was damaged throughout Beirut.
Ammonium nitrate, is an odorless crystalline substance commonly used as a fertilizer that has been the cause of numerous industrial explosions over the decades, AFP reported Wednesday.
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