Beirut blast probe points to bungled storage of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate

An aerial view shows the massive damage done to Beirut port's grain silos (C) and the area around it on August 5, 2020, one day after a mega-blast tore through the harbour in the heart of the Lebanese capital with the force of an earthquake, killing more than 100 people and injuring over 4,000. (AFP)
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Updated 05 August 2020

Beirut blast probe points to bungled storage of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate

  • Chemical used in fertilisers and bombs stored for six years at the port
  • A source said a fire had started at a warehouse and spread to where ammonium nitrate stored

BEIRUT: Initial investigations indicate years of inaction and negligence over the storage of highly explosive material in Beirut port caused the blast that killed over 100 people on Tuesday, an official source familiar with the findings said.
The prime minister and presidency said on Tuesday that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, used in fertilisers and bombs, had been stored for six years at the port without safety measures.
"It is negligence," the official source told Reuters, adding that the storage safety issue had been before several committees and judges and "nothing was done" to issue an order to remove or dispose of the highly combustible material.

 


The source said a fire had started at warehouse 9 of the port and spread to warehouse 12, where the ammonium nitrate was stored.
Tuesday's explosion was the most powerful ever suffered by Beirut, a city is still scarred by civil war three decades ago and reeling from a deep financial crisis rooted in decades of corruption and economic mismanagement.

 

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Badri Daher, Director General of Lebanese Customs, told broadcaster LBCI on Wednesday that customs had sent six documents to the judiciary warning that the material posed a danger.

"We requested that it be re-exported but that did not happen. We leave it to the experts and those concerned to determine why," Daher said.

 


Another source close to a port employee said a team that inspected the ammonium nitrate six months ago warned that if it was not moved it would "blow up all of Beirut".
According to two documents seen by Reuters, Lebanese Customs had asked the judiciary in 2016 and 2017 to ask the "concerned maritime agency" to re-export or approve the sale of the ammonium nitrate, removed from the a cargo vessel, Rhosus, and deposited in warehouse 12, to ensure port safety. One of the documents cited similar requests in 2014 and 2015.

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"A local and international investigation needs to be conducted into the incident, given the scale and the circumstances under which these goods were brought into the ports," said Ghassan Hasbani, former deputy prime minister and a member of the Lebanese Forces party.
Shiparrested.com, an industry network dealing with legal cases, had said in a 2015 report that the Rhosus, sailing under a Moldovan flag, docked in Beirut in September 2013 when it had technical problems while sailing from Georgia to Mozambique with 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate.
It said that, upon inspection, the vessel was forbidden from sailing and shortly afterwards it was abandoned by its owners, leading to various creditors coming forward with legal claims.
"Owing to the risks associated with retaining the ammonium nitrate on board the vessel, the port authorities discharged the cargo onto the port's warehouses," it added.


Iran: nuclear deal with world powers worth preserving

Updated 7 min 20 sec ago

Iran: nuclear deal with world powers worth preserving

  • Iran has been steadily breaking restrictions outlined in the 2018 nuclear deal on the amount of uranium it can enrich
  • ‘There is still a broad agreement among the international community that the JCPOA should be preserved’

BERLIN: The head of Iran’s nuclear agency said Monday that the landmark 2015 deal between Tehran and world powers on his country’s atomic program is struggling since the unilateral US withdrawal, but is still worth preserving.
Ali Akbar Salehi told delegates at a conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna that the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, has been “caught in a quasi-stalemate situation” since President Donald Trump pulled the US out in 2018.
The deal promises Iran economic incentives in exchange for limits on its nuclear program. The remaining world powers in the deal – France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia – have been struggling to offset re-imposed American sanctions.
Iran has been steadily breaking restrictions outlined in the deal on the amount of uranium it can enrich, the purity it can enrich it to, and other limitations in order to pressure those countries to do more.
Salehi, speaking in a video address, said it’s of the “utmost importance” that those countries find a solution to resolve “the difficulties caused by the illegal withdrawal of the US from the deal.”
“There is still a broad agreement among the international community that the JCPOA should be preserved,” he said.
Speaking after Salehi, US Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette made no reference to the deal, saying only that the “United States remains committed to addressing the threats posed by the nuclear programs of both North Korea and Iran.”
“On top of its horrific record as the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, Iran has a lamentable history of providing only grudging, dilatory, and incomplete cooperation, if at all, with the IAEA. Iran must do more, much more, to ensure both timely and complete compliance with the safeguards obligations,” he said.
The ultimate goal of the JCPOA is to prevent Iran from being able to build a nuclear bomb — something Iran insists it does not want to do.
Though it has broken the pact’s limitations, it still has far less enriched uranium and lower-purity uranium than it had before signing the deal.
It has also continued to allow IAEA inspectors full access to its nuclear facilities, which the world powers still in the deal maintain is reason enough to try and keep it in place.
Iran recently granted the IAEA access to two sites dating from before the deal, which Director General Rafael Grossi said he hoped “will reinforce cooperation and enhance mutual trust.”