Lebanon’s army finds more ammonium nitrate near Beirut port

A month after the blast that ripped through the Lebanese capital, the army has discovered an additional 4.35 tons of the same explosive chemical that caused the blast.

al-monitor People argue with a security official after entering a destroyed building with the aim of finding a potential survivor of the Beirut blast after rescue workers paused operations, on Sept. 3, 2020 in Beirut, Lebanon. A sniffer dog with a Chilean rescue crew responded to the possible presence of a person in the rubble of a building damaged in the deadly Aug. 4 explosion. Photo by Sam Tarling/Getty Images.

Sep 3, 2020

Lebanon has discovered an additional 4.35 tons of ammonium nitrate near the Beirut port, where last month a large stockpile of the same hazardous material touched off the explosion that gutted the city.  

Customs officials asked the Lebanese army to inspect four containers outside the port, state agency NNA reported today. The army is now “dealing with it,” suggesting engineers are destroying the chemical or moving the containers to a safer location. 

The discovery came nearly a month after the Aug. 4 blast, which killed at least 190 people, injured roughly 6.000 and left nearly 300,000 homeless. Lebanese authorities say the explosion was caused by some 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate, a chemical commonly used in agricultural fertilizers, that was stored unsafely at Beirut’s port for six years. 

Within days of the blast, cleanup teams had identified 20 containers filled with possibly dangerous chemicals that were then moved to a safe location. Twenty-five people have been arrested in connection with the explosion, most of whom worked at the port or in customs. 

In a separate development today, a Chilean rescue team indicated a survivor might still be trapped under the rubble in Beirut's hard-hit Gemmayze neighborhood. After a sniffer dog led them to the debris, the rescue workers used equipment that reportedly detected a heartbeat, and a search was continuing. 

Lebanon’s government, which resigned in the wake of the blast, is seen by many in Beirut as responsible for the devastation. Little-known diplomat Mustapha Adib was named prime minister-designate Monday. 

During his visit to the small Mediterranean country this week, French President Emmauel Macron told Lebanon’s leaders, including its new prime-minister designate, they have through October to make good on long-promised reforms or risk sanctions over corruption. 

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