The Lebanese government has ordered port officials under house arrest after a massive explosion in Beirut killed at least 100 people and wounded thousands of others on Wednesday, The Associated Press reports.
Hospitals were overwhelmed after a blast that caused a 200-yard crater impacted much of Beirut’s downtown.
The government has ordered security agencies to immediately investigate the blast, which had the force of a 3.5-magnitude earthquake.
It was the biggest ever blast in Beirut, which has seen numerous armed conflicts.
“There are no words to describe the catastrophe that hit Beirut last night,” said President Michael Aoun.
Ammonium nitrate blamed:
A letter surfaced online showing that the head of the customs departments warned for years that a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate that was stored in a hangar at the port posted a danger.
About 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored in the port after it was confiscated from a ship in 2013.
The material, which is a component of fertilizer, is believed to have detonated after a fire broke out nearby.
The customs chief sent similar letters in 2014, 2015, and 2016.
Lebanon on the brink of collapse:
The country was already on the brink of collapse due to a severe economic crisis exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
The country has experienced a currency crisis and now food security is a growing concern after the blast destroyed much of Beirut’s main port.
The government has little funding to respond to the catastrophe.
French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to travel to the region on Thursday to offer support.