The Lebanese military discovered over four tons of ammonium nitrate near Beirut’s port on Thursday, less than a month after a deadly explosion killed nearly 200 people and devastated large parts of the historic city.
In an army statement published by the state news agency NNA, it confirmed that an additional 4.35 tonnes of aluminum nitrate was discovered outside the entrance to the port and that army engineers are “dealing” with the materials. They provided no further details on where the substance came from and who owns it.
The discovery comes less than a month after the catastrophic explosion that ripped through the city, killing about 190 people and injuring about 6,500. Initially suspected as a terrorist attack, authorities later revealed that it was caused by around 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been kept in dangerous conditions at the port warehouse for years.
In addition to the dead, 300,000 people were left homeless and the cost of the material damage is an estimated $15 billion. The United Nations has warned of a possible humanitarian crisis in the country as its economic predicament is likely to be exacerbated by the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
With raging public anger at its incompetence, the Lebanese government resigned in disgrace amid allegations of negligence, having already lost the confidence of the population by bringing the country into a severe public crisis.
The public is still anxious that other hazardous chemicals have not been stored properly, leading to widespread searches and repairs of potentially dangerous materials across the city. Among the incidents of concern included the leak of 84,000 liters of fuel in March 2019, leading to President Michel Aoun ordering an investigation into its safety.
Beirut airport head Fadi el-Hassan insisted this week that repairs were carried out in two months and that international investigators had described them as “satisfactory.”
“No explosion is awaiting us,” Hassan told the news conference.
On Friday, the BBC reported that rescue teams are still searching through the rubble of one building amid claims that a person may still be alive. Specialist sensor equipment reportedly detected a heartbeat, with groups of volunteers working to extricate the individual.