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On Wednesday, the government announced that a number of Beirut port officials were placed under house arrest pending an investigation into the explosion that shook the city on Tuesday.

President Michel Aoun announced that the blast was caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely in a warehouse at the ports.

The angry residents are looking for answers as to what the exact cause was for the explosion as many have accused the authorities of corruption, neglect and mismanagement.

Beirut's governor, Marwan Aboud, confirmed that the devastating blast killed at least 137 people and injured about 5,000 others, while dozens are still missing underneath the rubble. As many as 300,000 people have been left homeless.

"Beirut is crying, Beirut is screaming, people are hysterical and people are tired," filmmaker Jude Chehab told the BBC, calling for the people responsible to face justice.

The country's Supreme Defence Council insisted that those found responsible would face the "maximum punishment", as the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called for an independent investigation into the blast. In a statement, HRW said it had "serious concerns about the ability of the Lebanese judiciary to conduct a credible and transparent investigation on its own".

The substance known as ammonium nitrate, which is used as a fertiliser in agriculture, is also one of the main components in explosives used in mining. It had reportedly been stored in a warehouse in the Beirut port for six years after it was unloaded from a ship impounded in 2013. The ammonium nitrate arrived on a Moldovan-flagged ship, the Rhosus, which entered Beirut port after suffering technical problems during its voyage from Georgia to Mozambique, according to Shiparrested.com, which deals with shipping-related legal cases. The Rhosus was inspected, banned from leaving and was shortly afterwards abandoned by its owners, sparking several legal claims. Its cargo was stored in a port warehouse for safety reasons, the report said,

The head of Beirut port and the head of the customs authority both claimed that they had written to the judiciary several times asking that the chemical be exported or sold on to ensure port safety.

Port General Manager, Hassan Koraytem, told OTV they had been aware that the material was dangerous when a court first ordered it stored in the warehouse, "but not to this degree".

According to Information Minister, Manal Abdel Samad, house arrest would apply for all port officials "who have handled the affairs of storing [the] ammonium nitrate, guarding it and handling its paperwork" since June 2014.

The explosion comes at a sensitive time for Lebanon as the world is still facing the rise of  Covid-19 infections, and seeing that hospitals were already struggling to cope.

Lebanon is known to import most of its food and large quantities of grain which is then stored in the port and, now that the port has been destroyed, the country is expecting the fears of widespread food insecurity to come. The future of the port itself is in doubt due to the destruction caused.

President Aoun announced that the government would release 100bn lira (£50.5m; $66m) of emergency funds, but the impact of the blast on the economy is expected to be long-lasting.

He told the BBC: "Beirut needs food, Beirut needs clothes, houses, materials to rebuild houses. Beirut needs a place for the refugees, for its people."    

Economy Minister, Raoul Nehme, said the country would have to rely at least partly on foreign aid to rebuild. "The capacity of the state is very limited, and so is that of the central bank and the banks. We're not swimming in dollars," he told Sky News Arabia.

A number of countries have offered humanitarian assistance, including three French planes which are due to arrive carrying 55 rescuers, medical equipment and a mobile clinic equipped to treat 500 people.

Security forces have sealed off a wide area around the blast site, and rescuers have been looking for bodies and survivors under rubble while boats search the waters off the coast. Dozens of people are still missing.


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