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Explosions Kill and Injure Thousands in Beirut

by Sophie Sullivan and Lucy Holland

Media Production Editor and Sports Editor

On Aug. 4, a pair of explosions centered at a port in Beirut, Lebanon, left more than 200 dead and 5,000 injured, with approximately 300,000 displaced in its aftermath, officials say.

Videos and eyewitness accounts depict two explosions, the second more devastating than the first. Shockwaves from the explosions blew out windows as far as five miles away, and the blast could be heard as far away as Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean nearly 120 miles off Beirut’s coast. The exact cause and trigger of the two explosions remain uncertain, though officials say the ignition of nearly 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse at the port likely caused the second explosion. 

The Lebanese Red Cross dispatched nearly 100 ambulances across affected areas, in addition to performing search and rescue missions for potential survivors of the blast. Doctors began treating patients in the streets as hospitals reached full capacity within hours of the explosion, and power outages exacerbated the already dire situation. @LebaneseProblem on Twitter described the situation, writing, “No electricity in many parts of #Beirut tonight. Doctors and nurses using cell phone flashlights to save lives.” 

The Lebanese Public Health Minister, Ghassan Hasbani announced early on Tues. that the ministry would cover medical expenses of the wounded at hospitals regardless of whether they have contracts with the ministry or not. Many hospitals in the Beirut area recently had to lay off hundreds of doctors and nurses due to the national economic crisis that has been exacerbated by the pandemic, leading to a personnel shortage in the midst of a national emergency.

On Aug. 5, Lebanese President Michel Aoun responded to the situation in a tweet, promising to “proceed with the investigations and uncover the circumstances of what happened as soon as possible.” He also stated that the government would “impose the most severe penalties” for those responsible or negligent in the explosions. Aoun went on to announce a two-week state of emergency within the country and the house arrest of port officials overseeing the cache of ammonium nitrate.

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab echoed Aoun’s sentiment in a televised address late Tues., saying that “what happened today will not pass without accountability… those responsible for this catastrophe will pay the price.” Lebanon’s government has set up an investigative committee to look into possible negligence regarding the decisions and events that led to the storage of thousands of pounds of ammonium nitrate in a warehouse. 

Despite the government’s statements, Lebanese citizens remain doubtful of their government’s promises. Anti-government protests erupted across the country last fall, initially protesting increased taxes and later condemning widespread corruption and sectarianism, leading to the resignation of then-Prime Minister Saad Hariri. 

If you are looking for a way to help the people in Lebanon, here are some links to donate directly:

Lebanese Red Cross: https://www.supportlrc.app/donate/

Impact Lebanon: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/lebanon-relief?utm_term=PYp7gXzyD

Humanity and Inclusion: https://www.hi-us.org/beirut_explosion

Other non-governmental organizations: https://lebanoncrisis.carrd.co/#donate

(Sources: AP, The New York Times, Red Cross, Reuters, Twitter, CNN, NPR, Al Jazeera, Fast Company, BBC)

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