Nazih Osseiran and
BEIRUT—A large fire broke out Thursday at Lebanon’s main port, near the site of last month’s massive explosion that devastated a swath of the country’s capital and killed nearly 200 people.
Lebanese living in the vicinity of the port rushed to get away as firefighters tackled the blaze at a warehouse. The army said the building had been used to store engine oil and vehicle tires.
The cause of the fire wasn’t immediately clear, but it served as a grim reminder of the security lapses that led to the Aug. 4 blast that also injured more than 6,000 and left thousands of homes in ruins.
Talal Merhi lost everything he owns in the blast, so when the 52-year-old taxi driver saw the plumes of smoke in the most recent fire Thursday, he fled Beirut. “I am disgusted with my life and with this country,” he said.
The fire comes a week after the Lebanese army found more than four tons of ammonium nitrate near Beirut’s port, where a larger cache of the same highly explosive material had caused last month’s deadly explosion.
The Lebanese government and ruling elite have come under scathing domestic and international criticism for allowing highly combustible material to be kept so close to the city center for nearly seven years after it was unloaded from a leaking ship.
Foreign leaders have called for an international investigation into the explosion, but so far the Lebanese government has resisted such demands and is carrying out its own probe.
Last week’s discovery of explosive chemicals came days after the judicial investigator in the case issued arrest warrants for Beirut port’s harbor master and the general director of land and maritime transport, according to state media.
The blast, and the bureaucratic failures leading up to it, have set residents on edge over the potential for a similar explosion from poorly stored chemicals in other parts of the country.
In the wake of the blast, Lebanon’s prime minister and his cabinet resigned under pressure from protesters who demanded justice for those killed in the blast. But the appointment last week of the country’s ambassador to Germany as the new prime minister has dismayed many, who now believe the explosion won’t lead to real political change.
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