The explosion that devastated the port of Beirut. Port officials arrested. And the economy in free fall. Focus Ispi on Lebanon
The violent explosion that rocked the port of Beirut on Tuesday afternoon, creating scenes of tragedy that shocked the world for a long time, was the subject of media speculation, convinced that it was facing a terrorist attack or bombing by a foreign power.
The testimonies collected so far instead tell a different truth, that the ISPI (Institute of International Political Studies) has put together a focus that takes stock of the accident, its causes, the chain of errors that led to the catastrophe and the condition of a country in free fall like Lebanon.
Of all the things that have been said of this story, the only certainty – writes Ispi – "is that in the area of the explosion an enormous amount of ammonium nitrate was stored". This substance used to produce fertilizers and, under certain conditions, highly explosive would be at the origin of the huge 'mushroom' explosion taken from videos that have become viral on social networks and would cause the release of contaminated particles in the air.
ACCIDENT OR ATTACK?
Since the detonation that hit the city of Beirut was so powerful that it caused a magnitude 3.5 earthquake, felt up to the island of Cyprus, many in the early hours feared that the cause was a violent bombing or an attack.
However, soon the attention shifted to the contents of the port warehouses and, in particular, to those 2750 tons of ammonium nitrate that were transported to the sea to Mozambique years ago except to shelter in the port of Beirut due to an engine problem. . As ISPI explains, the seizure of the boat was decreed under Lebanese laws. The owners abandoned the load and the crew dispersed. The nitrate was stored in the port hangar 12 and since then customs officials sent five letters to the administrative offices in charge – between 2013 and 2017 – to ask him to order that the highly dangerous material be removed. They received no reply and three years after the last letter, the cargo was still in the hangar. " Hence the fatality.
In addition to the hypothesis of the bombing, the hypothesis of the attack has for a long time maintained. The whole country is in fact awaiting the verdict on the murder of the ex premier Rafik Hariri, which took place fifteen years ago in what is remembered as the Valentine's Day massacre. The bomb truck, incidentally, exploded right near the port. For this reason, the leaders of the Hezbollah movement – whose representatives are at the bar in the process – on Monday denied any involvement in the explosion.
Local media reported initially that the fire that caused the explosion would begin during the welding work that was underway in the warehouse that contained ammonium nitrate. But, as Ispi points out, "the Lebanese customs director, Badri Daher, confirmed to the media that, incredibly, there was a fireworks depot near the ammonium nitrate warehouse that exploded. An element that raises disturbing questions about the lack of management and skills of the management, and not only, of one of the most important ports in the Eastern Mediterranean ". It is no coincidence that the president, Michel Aoun immediately summoned the Supreme Defense Council defining "unacceptable" the fact that such an amount of ammonium nitrate was stored for six years in the port of Beirut without security measures, while The Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, assured that "all those responsible for this catastrophe will be called to respond". The Lebanese authorities – Bloomberg wrote – have arrested port officials, now under house arrest.
THE FALLING ECONOMY OF LEBANON
Tuesday's incident comes at a dramatic time for Lebanon, unable to repay the $ 1.2 billion in foreign currency bonds. The country has also been officially in default since March and has started a complex negotiation with the International Monetary Fund. To complete the picture, a debt / GDP ratio of 170%, the third in the world, the loss of the anchor with the dollar and the consequent collapse of the Lebanese pound, which turned into the dramatic decrease in purchasing power by the population. All this is further aggravated by the consequences of the pandemic, which has raged on an already sick country and with an unemployment rate of 25%, removing even the most precious source of income, namely tourism.
This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL https://www.startmag.it/mondo/tutti-i-guai-economici-del-libano-report-ispi/ on Thu, 06 Aug 2020 05:00:33 +0000.