(Beirut) At least 28 people were killed and dozens injured in an overnight gasoline tank explosion in a village in northern Lebanon, where residents tried to stock up on fuel that was in short supply in a country before the collapse.
Posted on Aug 15, 2021 at 8:01 am
Hachem OSSEIRAN Agence France-Presse
The army said in a statement on Sunday that a fuel tank “had been confiscated for distribution”. [son contenu] to the citizens ”exploded shortly before 2 am in the Akkar region in the far north of the country, reporting soldiers among the dozen wounded.
The explosion, which brightens the horrific memory of the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020 (more than 200 dead), comes when the army was deployed at gas stations on Saturday to stop fuel storage there. following the recent announcement of the central bank’s decision to lift fuel subsidies.
According to a new report from the Ministry of Health, 28 people were killed in the explosion. An initial assessment by the Red Cross reported 20 deaths. Civilians were among the victims waiting for gasoline supplies.
The explosion came after fighting between local residents who had gathered to get gasoline, according to the National News Agency.
Anger and dismay prevail at Geitawi Hospital in Beirut, where nine people who were burned to death, including three in critical condition, were transported.
“What should I tell my sister,” shouts a man in military uniform at the entrance to the emergency room, whose brother-in-law is still missing and who is being admitted to the hospital.
In social networks, pictures show horror scenes. At least seven bodies and dozens of burns were taken to a hospital in Akkar, said Yassine Metlej.
But “the bodies are so charred that we cannot identify them,” he told AFP. “Some no longer have a face, others no longer have an arm.”
The hospital had to turn down most of the injured because it wasn’t equipped to treat severe burns, he added.
Some victims were taken to Al Salam Hospital in Tripoli, 25 km away, the only one in the region suitable for treating the seriously injured.
Interim Health Minister Hamad Hassan ordered all hospitals in the country to “admit those injured in this painful tragedy at the Ministry’s expense.”
President Michel Aoun has called for an investigation into the circumstances of the explosion – that of the port of Beirut has so far yielded no results.
He also called for an urgent meeting of the country’s Defense Council for today, his office said.
Lebanon has been in an economic collapse since the end of 2019 and suffers from all sorts of shortages, especially in fuel, which are affecting the supply of basic goods.
It is linked to an endless political crisis: the outgoing government resigned a year ago after the devastating explosion in the port of Beirut and the political forces have still not regrouped despite international pressure.
Central bank reserves have melted as the Lebanese pound lost more than 90% of its value against the dollar, adding to the cost of imports. The greenback is trading at over £ 20,000 on the black market today, while the official rate is held at £ 1,507.
Several establishments have had to close their doors due to a diesel shortage to power private generators as power outages peak more than 22 hours a day.
The American University of Beirut (AUBMC) hospital, one of the country’s top private hospitals, warned of an “imminent disaster” on Saturday and said it would be forced to shut down within 48 hours if it ran out of fuel.
“Forty sick adults and 15 children wearing ventilators will die instantly,” warned the AUBMC in a statement.
“One hundred and eighty people with kidney failure will die of poisoning within a few days […]. Hundreds of cancer patients, adults and children, will die in the coming weeks. ”
Endless queues formed outside gas stations on Saturday when tank trucks were stormed by angry citizens, local media reported.
Some gas stations have closed to save fuel while waiting for prices to rise.