First economy, then protests and now explosions: How Lebanon situation turned from bad to worse?

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Aug 05, 2020, 10.49 PM(IST) Edited By: Palki Sharma

Smoke rises after an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon August 4, 2020, in this picture obtained from a social media video.  Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

While there is an alternative, a port in tripoli could handle the imports. But, there could be serious shortages.

Twenty-four hours ago, a pair of explosions shook entire Beirut. Many know the cause of the blast, however, several questions remained unanswered.

Was the blast in Beirut a terrorist attack? Who is to blame? And what does it mean for a volatile West Asia?

At least 100 people have died in this twin explosion so far. More than 4,000 are injured. This is now a humanitarian crisis. Up to 300,000 people have been left homeless.

The damage could range from 3 to 5 billion dollars.

The cause of the explosion? Ammonium nitrate. There were two blasts in the port area of Beirut. There were 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored there.

This chemical is used as a fertiliser in agriculture. It can be used in explosives too.

But, for now, officials in Lebanon haven’t been able to ascertain the exact cause of the blast.

Lebanon’s prime minister has declared the guilty will be punished.

The biggest question right now is this.

Was this accidental? Or was it a terrorist attack?

No one knows for sure. A local media report rules out the terrorism angle. Reportedly, a defence official has said this wasn’t a terrorist act.

What were the circumstances that led to this catastrophe?

There are no clear answers yet. Reports say the first blast may have happened at a fireworks warehouse in the port.

The fire then could have spread to the stockpile of ammonium nitrate. Something, that had been stored in a depot for six years now.

But, this calamity only makes the situation worse for Lebanon.

Before the explosion, Lebanon was suffering as the value of its currency had plunged.

The Lebanese economy is on life support. There was an influx of refugees from neighbouring Syria and the outbreak of Wuhan virus. This pandemic had pushed Lebanon to its knees.

This explosion will seriously cripple Lebanon. The implications are many.

First, the explosion is a big blow for Lebanon’s economy.

It has destroyed its biggest port. Lebanon is an import-dependent country.

Local authorities are now worried. How are they going to bring in food, medical and other badly needed supplies?

While there is an alternative, a port in tripoli could handle the imports. But, there could be serious shortages.

The country imports 90% of its wheat consumption. Nearly half of Lebanon's population lives below the poverty line. 35% of the people are reportedly out of work.

Already, the central bank had to dip into its reserves. Just to subsidize wheat, fuel and medicine.

This is Lebanon’s worst crisis in decades and it couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Last year, Lebanon witnessed massive protests against the political establishment.

These were nationwide protests against corruption, economic mismanagement and sectarian politics. There could be another wave of protests.
This is a crisis of gigantic proportions.

Earlier today, Beirut's governor broke down in tears during a tv interview at the blast site. Several countries have now come forward with help. The European nations have rushed aid to Lebanon with some nations even offering relief.