New Worker Banner

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain


Beirut rocked by blasts

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

TWO MASSIVE explosions rocked Beirut, the Lebanese capital, on Tuesday evening – sending a wave of destruction across the port and the rest of the city, wrecking millions of apartments and homes. Over a hundred bodies have been recovered and at least 4,000 people have been treated for injuries in the blast, the explosive force of which was similar to a small atomic bomb. The huge second blast was heard all over Lebanon, parts of Syria and over 200 miles away, across the Mediterranean, in Cyprus.

More than 30 brigades from the Red Cross are currently working at the scene as rescue workers pull people out from the rubble. At least 10 fire-fighters who were trying to contain the fire from the first smaller explosion are believed to have been killed in the second massive blast.

The office of Lebanon’s electricity supplier in Beirut was completely destroyed. There is no electricity in several districts in the city, and the internet and telephone service are badly disrupted. Vessels in the harbour were damaged, including a ship deployed with the local United Nations peacekeeping force.

demolished

Thousands of apartment blocks in the vicinity were completely demolished and rendered uninhabitable. And several Lebanese politicians were injured in the blast including Nazar Najarian, the Secretary-General of the Falange Party, who was in his office when the explosion happened and who died from his injuries soon after.

At first many suspected sabotage or a missile attack, but the Israelis quickly said they “had nothing to do” with the blast that the authorities later said was caused by a massive stash of ammonium nitrate which had been stored in an unsafe dockside warehouse for the last six years. Customs chief Badri Daher said that his agency had repeatedly called for the 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate to be removed, but “this did not happen, and we leave it to the experts to determine the reasons”. All port officials are now under house arrest pending an investigation.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is airlifting emergency supplies to the shattered city. WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said supplies airlifted from a “humanitarian hub” in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates would be used to treat burns and wounds caused by broken glass and other debris from the explosion.

Help is also pouring in from Syria and the rest of the Arab world. The Iranian Red Crescent is sending tonnes of food as well as medical supplies to Lebanon, and the Islamic Republic has despatched medical teams and a field hospital to assist the relief operations. Five Russian aircraft carrying a mobile hospital, medical teams and emergency service troops are on their way, and People’s China has also offered to help.

The Lebanese Communist Party expressed its deepest condolences to the families of the victims, sending its wishes for a fast recovery for all the wounded. The Lebanese communists called upon the Lebanese people generally, and communists in particular, to show solidarity with those who suffered from the explosion, provide support, and open their houses for those who need it.

They also called on the people to give blood in the clinics, hospitals, social and aid institutions and where it is needed, and to be ready to engage in all tasks of voluntary work and social assistance that are required.

The Lebanese communists are calling for a prompt and transparent investigation to reveal the truth of what happened and to determine the people responsible for this national catastrophe.