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The Horrific Beirut Explosion

Social media is full of “Pray for Lebanon” hashtags yesterday and today after the massive blast that has occurred in the Lebanese Capital, Beirut on Tuesday. The video which lively records the incident has gone viral in the internet reflecting the tragedy that Lebanon had to face. A CNN senior international correspondent who witnessed the explosion has said that it felt more like an earthquake. “A split second later, I heard glass shatter and the crunch of metal. Peering through the window, I saw a cloud of yellow dust coming toward me, the street was strewn with rubble and broken glass. People were running around and shouting, trying to understand what had happened”.

However, Germany’s geosciences centre states that the explosion triggered a 3.5 magnitude earthquake as the explosion was heard and felt as far away as Cyprus more than 200 kilometres across the Mediterranean.

Today it is reported that at least 100 people are killed and more than 4000 are wounded yet highlighting the possibility of an increasing death count. The mass explosion has also caused unprecedented damage to the Lebanese Capital. Even though the clear cause of the explosion is still unknown the Lebanon Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that an estimated 2,750 tons of the explosive ammonium nitrate had been stored at a warehouse in Beirut for six years which could be the possible reason for the explosion.

Ammonium Nitrate, the possible known case of the Beirut blast is an odourless crystalline chemical commonly used as a fertilizer. This chemical has caused numerous industrial explosions over the decades. Yet a chemistry professor at the University of Rhode Island, Jimmie Oxley state that under normal storage conditions and without extreme heat, it is difficult to ignite ammonium nitrate. Further, she says that “if you look at the video of the Beirut explosion you saw black smoke, you saw red smoke that was an incomplete reaction. I am assuming that there was a small explosion that instigated the reaction of ammonium nitrate, whether that small explosion was an incident or something on purpose I haven’t heard yet”.

Meanwhile adding fuel to the fire, President Donald Trump has referred the accident as a “terrible attack” while offering sympathy and assistance to the people of Lebanon after the explosions. Lebanese officials have raised concerns with the US diplomats about using the word “attack” as Lebanese officials have not called the explosion an attack so far. However, the Prime Minister of Lebanon has mentioned in a statement that the storage of the material “unacceptable” and called for an investigation into the cause of the blast, with the results released within five days. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday the US is looking forward for the outcome of the investigation carried out by the Lebanese officials.

Whilst a part of the world is finding the cause of the explosion the rest have come forward to provide assistance and to pray for the affected. The prime minister has called on “friendly countries” to support a country already reeling from its worst economic crisis in decades and the coronavirus pandemic.
Most of the countries have expressed their condolences on the Beirut blast and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his deepest condolences to the families of the victims and to the Lebanese people while stating that the United Nations is actively assisting the response to the horrific explosions that ripped through the port area of Beirut.

The gulf countries have reacted first with Qatar promising to send field hospitals to support the medical response. Iraq and Kuwait also plan to send medical assistance to Lebanon in the aftermath of the deadly explosion, according to state news agencies in the Middle East. Lebanon’s NNA news agency reported that Qatar will send supplies to outfit two 500-bed field hospitals on Wednesday. NNA also reported that Iraq will send a field hospital and oil. The Emir of Qatar, Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, said on Twitter that he spoke on the phone with Lebanese President Michel Aoun “to express Qatar’s standing with the brothers in Lebanon and its willingness to provide immediate support following the explosion.”

Meanwhile, neighbouring Cyprus said it stood ready to offer medical aid to Lebanon. “Cyprus is ready to accept injured persons for treatment and send medical terms if required” Cypriot foreign minister Nikos Christodoulides told the state broadcaster CyBC. Also, Christodoulides stated that the Cypriot embassy in Beirut which was closed at the time of the blast was extensively damaged.
In the current scenario in Lebanon Lebanese President Michel Aoun called for an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday and said a two-week state of emergency should be declared following a massive explosion. And Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah movement said that all of the country’s political powers must unite to overcome the “Painful catastrophe” after the massive explosion.
By Jumana Jabeer

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