Sunday, 20 September 2020

Turkey says it is ready to help rebuild port of Beirut

Image: AFP

BEIRUT: Turkey is ready to help rebuild the port of Beirut, which was destroyed by a massive blast, Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay said during a visit to Lebanon.

Turkey’s port of Mersin, on the Mediterranean, is ready to assist the port of Beirut, he said, without elaborating.

The blast was apparently caused by the ignition of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a chemical used for explosives and fertilizer, that had been stored at the port since it was confiscated from an impounded cargo ship in 2013.

The government has launched an investigation as it has come under mounting criticism, with many Lebanese blaming the catastrophe on negligence and corruption.

Search and rescue teams have been sent from several countries to help locate survivors of the blast. Among those located in the rubble near the grain silo was Joe Akiki, a 23-year-old port worker who had been missing since the explosion.

A team of 55 French rescuers that began work Thursday has found four bodies, according to Col. Tissier Vincent, the head of the mission. Lebanese firefighters are also working at the demolished port, where bulldozers and excavators were churning through the rubble.

Dozens of people are still missing, and at the entrance to the port a family waited for news of a relative.

Some 300,000 people – more than 12% of Beirut’s population – are unable to return to their homes because of the explosion, which blew out doors and windows across the city and left many buildings uninhabitable. Officials have estimated losses at $10 billion to $15 billion.

Damaged hospitals, already strained by the coronavirus pandemic, are still struggling to deal with the wounded.

The investigation is focusing on port and customs officials, with 16 employees detained and others questioned. But many Lebanese say it points to much greater rot that permeates the political system and extends to the country’s top leadership.

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