Officials slammed for negligence by residents following Beirut explosion

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French President Emmanuel Macron comforts aggrieved residents in a Thursday visit. AFP/Getty Images

On Tuesday, the Lebanese capital city of Beirut was rocked by a massive explosion that killed 137 people and injured over 5,000.

Initial speculation on the source of the explosion ranged from an accident to an intentional attack, an idea that was floated by U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday following news of the explosion.

According to preliminary investigations by local officials, the source of the Beirut explosion appears to be accidental. The revelations have led to an enraged local populace decrying massive negligence on the part of local government.

In an official statement, Lebanese President Michel Aoun claims the blast was caused by 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that was improperly stored in a port warehouse. For residents, this begs the question, why was 2,750 tons of highly explosive material improperly stored in a warehouse and ignored by authorities in the first place?

To make matters worse, the ammonium nitrate was originally confiscated in 2013 and has been held in a port warehouse ever since, for six years to be exact. According to Port General Manager Hassan Koraytem, Beirut courts ordered that they be stored in the warehouse but “not to this degree.”

Both the head of the port as well as the head of customs claim they wrote to the Beirut judiciary on multiple occasions requesting that the hazardous materials be moved to a secure facility or exported to ensure port safety. It appears that the request fell on deaf ears if it was made at all.

Big wig government officials have fired back, including a statement from Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad declaring that all port officials “who have handled the affairs of storing [the] ammonium nitrate, guarding it and handling its paperwork” would be placed under house arrest while the matter is further investigated.

As the Lebanese government scrambles to get a grip on the disaster, public support for domestic institutions has plummeted. A prescient example of this is French President Emmanuel Macron’s Thursday visit to Beirut where he was mobbed by incensed residents pleading for assistance while simultaneous bashing the government.

One resident yelled out “Help us, you are our only hope,” while another said, “Please don’t give money to our corrupt government” before further adding “We can’t take this anymore.”

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