Grief As Huge Fire Guts Beirut Port Weeks After Deadly Blast

Grief As Huge Fire Guts Beirut Port Weeks After Deadly Blast

By Spy Uganda Correspondent

Lebanon: A huge fire raged in Beirut port on Thursday, sparking alarm among Lebanese still reeling from a deadly dockside explosion that disfigured the capital last month.

Thick black columns of smoke rose into the sky, as the army said it had engulfed a warehouse storing engine oil and vehicle tyres.

“A fire has broken out in a warehouse storing oil and tyres in the duty-free market in Beirut Port. Operations are underway to extinguish the fire,” the Lebanese army said in a statement.

Michel El Murr from the Beirut fire department is at the scene the port and said “a big duty free depot is burning.”

Black smoke from the towering inferno has darkened the sky over the Lebanese capital.

The army said it was not immediately clear why the oil and tyres had erupted in flames and said it was sending helicopters to help bring the fire under control. Television footage showed a helicopter dropping water on the blaze.

“Imagine what Beirut is living again, barely a month after the massive blast. I lost the words to describe the pain and anger,” Mona Fawaz, a professor of urban studies at American University Beirut, wrote on Twitter.

“The sheer incompetence of the #Lebanon state is staggering,” Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch Aya Majzoub wrote on Twitter. “Once again, firefighters sent in without knowing cause of fire. Official statements late and don’t inspire confidence.”

Beirutis are already blaming authorities for the fire. This is the result of “big corruption,” said Ali, a taxi driver.

“One would think that over a month after the Beirut blast, the military and security forces would have secured the area and removed flammable material,” Emile Hokayem, Middle East analyst at The International Institute for Strategic Studies, wrote on Twitter.

“But that’s assuming their primary role is indeed to protect and help citizens. They just don’t see it that way.”

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