Watch: Large fire in Beirut port weeks after huge explosion
A large fire broke out on Thursday in the Lebanese capital Beirut – more than a month after a massive explosion destroyed part of the city.
At least 14 people were injured, nine of whom were taken to hospital, the Lebanese Red Cross said.
Footage on social media showed a large column of black smoke billowing out over the port area, largely devastated by last month’s blast.
The August 4 explosion, triggered when some 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrates caught fire, claimed more than 190 lives, injured 6,500 and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
An emergency meeting of the Supreme Council of Defence, chaired in the evening by President Michel Aoun, ordered an audit of what is currently stocked in warehouses and containers in the port area.
Meanwhile, the military police have been tasked with investigating the fire.
It is unclear at this stage what caused the latest fire. The Lebanese army said the blaze broke out in a warehouse containing oil and tyres in the duty-free part of the port and sent four helicopters to assist in firefighting effort.
Fabrizio Carboni, regional director for the Near and Middle East for the International Committee of the Red Cross, revealed that the warehouse which caught fire was used by the NGO to stock “thousands (of) food parcels and 0.5 million L (of) oil.”
“The extent of the damage still remains to be established. Our humanitarian operation risks to be seriously disrupted,” he warned.
Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud called on people to steer clear of the area to facilitate the work of emergency services.
The American University of Beirut Medical Center urged residents, in particular children and the elderly to remain indoors to protect from the smoke and if possible, to leave the area altogether.
It is the second fire to impact the port area this week, prompting criticism.
Aya Majzoub, Lebanon and Bahrain researcher at Human Rights Watch, wrote on Twitter that the “sheer incompetence of the Lebanon state is staggering”.
“I just cannot fathom how a fire of this scale is possible in the port. Did authorities not ensure all material was safely stored after negligence destroyed half the city?” she added.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said she was “saddened” by the fire.
“My thoughts are with the Lebanese people, who have already suffered from a devastating explosion last month,” she said, adding that the commissioner for crisis management, Janez Lenarcic will travel to Beirut on the weekend.