Beirut fire: Large blaze erupts in port area, month after explosion

A huge fire has erupted in the port of the Lebanese capital Beirut, one month after a massive explosion there killed more than 190 people.

The blaze broke out in an oil and tyre warehouse in the port’s duty-free zone. Officials told local media it was contained to one place.

Smoke could be seen billowing out over the city’s skyline.

It was not immediately clear what caused the fire. No casualties have been reported so far.

Firefighters are at the scene, and the military said its helicopters were being used in efforts to extinguish the blaze.

Footage shared on social media showed port workers running away as the fire broke out.

The head of Lebanon’s Red Cross, George Kettaneh, said some people were suffering from shortness of breath, but there were no reports of injuries, according to Reuters news agency.

Mr Kettaneh also said there was no fear of an explosion as a result of the fire.

Civil defence director general Raymond Khattar said the area around the fire had been completely cordoned off to prevent the blaze from spreading.

«Those working on extinguishing the fire will not leave the premises until the flames are fully quenched,» he told the state-run National News Agency.

Port director Bassem al-Qaisi told the Voice of Lebanon radio station that the fire started in a warehouse where barrels of cooking oil were being stored, and then spread to tyres nearby.

«It is too early to know if it is the result of heat or some other mistake,» he said.

Officials are investigating the cause of the fire.

Lebanese firefighters try to extinguish a fire at Port of Beirut, Lebanon, on 10 September 2020IMAGE COPYRIGHTEPA
image captionFirefighters were at the port to try to extinguish the fire

Despite assurances that the situation was under control, some residents, still traumatised by last month’s explosion, drove out of the city.

«I am forced to get them out of Beirut from the smoke and the fire that is happening at the port again,» Majed Hassanein, who was leaving with his wife and children, told Reuters.

Others described how the fire brought back memories of the explosion.

«I am still feeling the earth shake. Living a flashback,» Dana Awad told the Associated Press news agency.

The blast on 4 August happened when 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate detonated. There has been outrage that so much hazardous material was stored unsafely in a warehouse in the city’s port, close to many residential areas.

In addition to the fatalities, thousands were injured and as many as 300,000 left homeless by the explosion.

media captionStarting with the epicentre, we follow how the 4 August blast ripped through the city, bringing life to a halt

The Lebanese government’s resignation shortly afterwards failed to pacify protesters, who clashed with police in the city for several nights.

Rescuers last week searched through the rubble of a destroyed building after a sensor machine detected a pulsing signal in the area, but the search found «no sign of life».


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