A huge fire has broken out at the Port of Beirut, triggering panic in the area just a month after a massive explosion there killed almost 200 people and injured 6,500 others.
A column of black smoke could be seen billowing in the air, with orange flames leaping from the ground.
The sight of another huge fire so soon after the tragedy on 4 August created fear among residents traumatised by the incident, which led to the resignation of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab and the country’s entire government.
Image: Smoke rises over Beirut’s port area
Image: This latest fire comes just over a month since a huge explosion killed almost 200 people
Protests erupted in the city as residents blamed the country’s leaders for what happened.
It is believed that blast was caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate – used as a fertiliser and in explosives – which was left in a warehouse for six years.
State security had compiled a report about the dangers of storing the material at the port and sent a copy to the offices of the president and prime minister on 20 July.
An investigation is focused on how the ammonium nitrate came to be stored at the port and why nothing was done about it.
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Thursday’s fire broke out in the shattered duty-free zone of the port, and local TV stations said companies with offices nearby had asked their employees to leave the area.
Troops closed the major road that passes near the port, diverting traffic to other areas.
The head of civil defence told Lebanon’s AlJadeed television that it was not certain what materials were burning but urged residents to stay calm, saying the fire was contained to one place.
The army, however, said oil and tyres had burst into flames, but that the cause was not immediately clear.
Television footage showed a military helicopter dropping water on the fire, in an area surrounded by the mangled remains of buildings that were destroyed in last month’s explosion.
Image: A helicopter tries to put out the blaze
Lebanon’s Red Cross sought to quell fears of another explosion and said there were no reports of any injuries, although some people were said to be suffering from shortness of breath as a result.
Some residents chose to immediately flee the area, including Majed Hassanein, 49, who was taking his wife and two children by car.
“I am forced to get them out of Beirut from the smoke and the fire that is happening at the port again,” he said.
He added that his son was still suffering shock from August’s blast, which also left around 300,000 people unable to live in their homes.
Source : Sky News