Egypt, Iraq move ‘hazardous materials’ amid safety drive

Egypt’s Minister of Civil Aviation Mohamed Manar said a high-level committee will examine all shipments in storehouses and containers in the cargo areas of airports in the country, including Cairo.
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Updated 12 August 2020

Egypt, Iraq move ‘hazardous materials’ amid safety drive

  • A high-level committee in Egypt will examine all shipments in storehouses and containers in the cargo areas of airports in the country

CAIRO: Egyptian authorities have said that all hazardous substances stored at airports will be moved to safe storage to avoid the risk of a similar explosion to the devastating Beirut blast.
The move comes as countries around the world reevaluate safety protocols for storage of hazardous materials in the wake of the disaster in Lebanon.
Egypt’s Minister of Civil Aviation Mohamed Manar said a high-level committee will examine all shipments in storehouses and containers in the cargo areas of airports in the country, including Cairo.
The investigation will help to ensure the safety of employees and visitors at Egypt’s airports, he said.
The committee’s precautionary measures will include immediately moving hazardous materials to safe storage areas away from airports and residential areas.
Manar said that the committee will carry out a comprehensive evaluation of all measures applied in storage areas in order to provide the highest standards of safety and security in accordance with the instructions of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
The minister said that the decision aims to counter risks and protect all civil aviation employees.
Iraq Border Management and Migration Control Authority also announced that “extremely hazardous substances” were moved from Baghdad International Airport.
The authority said that the products were safely transferred from the airport’s air cargo department to warehouses operated by the Military Engineering Directorate.
The directorate, affiliated with the Ministry of Defense, carried out the move. However, the authority did not reveal the nature of the substances or provide further details.
Meanwhile, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit highlighted the danger posed by a floating oil tanker near the Houthi-controlled Yemeni coasts. The ship is carrying 1 million barrels of oil.
Aboul Gheit said that the devastating impact of the Lebanon explosion “reminds us of the hazards posed by this oil tanker.”
The tanker has not undergone maintenance since the civil war began in 2015, he said. Aboul Gheit called on the UN Security Council to intervene so a UN team could carry out essential maintenance.
An Arab League Secretariat official said that “the main reason behind the lack of maintenance is the procrastination practiced by the Houthis to prevent to the UN team from accessing the ship. The UN Security Council held a special session to discuss the ship issue in mid-July.”
He warned that water had leaked into the tanker’s engine, increasing the risk of the vessel sinking or exploding.
Although a temporary repair was carried out, the UN confirmed that this could lead to a disaster, with devastating effects on marine life in the Red Sea.


Lebanon finds four bodies after deadly sea crossing

Updated 21 September 2020

Lebanon finds four bodies after deadly sea crossing

  • UN peacekeepers retrieved one body and rescued 36 people from a boat in trouble in international waters off the Lebanese coast
  • Families of the survivors said the boat had been adrift without food or water for around a week
BEIRUT: Lebanon has retrieved the bodies of four people including a child after they tried to flee the crisis-hit country by sea on an overloaded dinghy, the civil defense said Monday.
A week ago, UN peacekeepers retrieved one body and rescued 36 people from a boat in trouble in international waters off the Lebanese coast.
Families of the survivors said the boat had been adrift without food or water for around a week, during which time several passengers had died or jumped overboard to find help.
The bodies are presumed to be from the same ill-fated crossing.
Since Friday, “we have retrieved four bodies — belonging to two Lebanese, one of whom was a child, a young Indian man and a Syrian man,” Samir Yazbek, the head of the civil defense’s sea rescue unit, told AFP.
The bodies were found in four separate locations off the north and south coasts of the country, and the search was ongoing, he added.
The UN refugee agency said last week that 25 Syrians, eight Lebanese and three people of other nationalities had been rescued from the boat.
It is unclear how many men, women and children originally clambered aboard the dinghy, and therefore how many are still missing.
On Saturday, the navy said it would step up its searches within and outside Lebanon’s territorial waters to find any other victims.
Relatives of those who went missing from the impoverished north Lebanese city of Tripoli say the people smuggler involved in the crossing has dropped off the radar since the tragedy.
They have filed three legal complaints against the man, who they say is a well-known figure in the community.
A military source on Saturday said a person acting as an intermediary between passengers and the boat owner had been arrested.
In recent weeks, dozens of Lebanese and Syrians have tried to make the perilous sea journey from Lebanon to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, authorities on both sides say.
The Republic of Cyprus, a European Union member, lies just 160 kilometers (100 miles) away.
Lebanon is in the throes of its worst economic crisis in decades, compounded since February by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
It is also reeling from a monster blast at Beirut’s port last month that killed more than 190 people, ravaged large parts of the capital and reignited public anger against the political class.