Lebanese firefighters put out remains of Beirut port fire

Lebanese firefighters put out remains of Beirut port fire
A statement from the civil defence confirmed that the fire had been fully extinguished after firefighters worked through the night.
3 min read
11 September, 2020
Lebanese firefighters have put a fire that broke out at Beirut's port area[Getty]

Lebanese firefighters and army helicopters on Friday succeeded in putting out the final remains of a huge fire at a Beirut port warehouse that broke out a day earlier, Reuters reported.

The fire, which broke out on Thursday only a month after a devastating dockside explosion disfigured the capital, sparked alarm among Beirut residents.

Officials claim the fire was started by welding during repair works, Reuters reported.

A statement from the civil defence on Friday morning confirmed that the fire had been fully extinguished after firefighters worked through the night.

The site is now being cooled to avoid further flare ups, the statement said. 

The International Committee of the Red Cross said the warehouse that was ablaze at Beirut port on Thursday contained precious food aid for Lebanon's embattled population.

"The warehouse on fire is where ICRC stocks thousands (of) food parcels and 0.5 million" litres of oil, ICRC regional director Fabrizio Carboni said. 

"The extent of the damage still remains to be established. Our humanitarian operation risks to be seriously disrupted," Carboni added in a tweet.

The army and the interim port chief said the fire broke out in a warehouse in the port's free zone containing cooking oil and tyres. 

'Act of sabotage'

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun said the fire could have been an "intentional act of sabotage, the result of a technical error, ignorance, or negligence".

"In all cases, the cause needs to be known as soon as possible, and those responsible held to account," he said.

Thick black columns of smoke rose into the sky on Thursday. Social media users posted video footage, which sparked alarm among Beirut residents only just recovering from the country's deadliest peace-time disaster.

"Insane fire at the port, causing a panic all across Beirut. We just can't catch a break," Human Rights Watch researcher Aya Majzoub wrote on Twitter.

The August 4 explosion of hundreds of tonnes of ammonium nitrate fertiliser at the port killed more than 190 people, wounded thousands and ravaged large parts of the capital.

The blast sparked widespread outrage after it emerged authorities had been aware of the presence of the huge stockpile, and prompted the government to resign.

'Where is the responsibility?'

Thursday's blaze came just two days after another smaller fire at the port, which the army said took hold of a mix of rubbish, wood and old tyres.

Human rights researcher Omar Nashabe tweeted: "Where are we living? This is the scene of the crime a month ago! Where is the judiciary? Where is the state? Where is responsibility?"

The port blast piled new misery on Lebanese already battling the coronavirus pandemic and the country's worst economic crisis in decades, which has seen poverty rates double to more than half the population.

Read more: Beating for Beirut': An online concert to help Lebanon rebuild

Lebanon has launched a probe into the blast, one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions ever, and arrested 25 suspects so far.

Among them are top port and customs officials, as well as Syrian workers who allegedly carried out welding hours before the explosion.

Lebanon has rejected an international investigation into the explosion, but its probe is being aided by foreign experts, including from the American FBI and France.

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