Crisis in Lebanon Deepens with Recent Deadly Explosion in Beirut
Last updated on August 29th, 2020
A deadly blast in Lebanese capital Beirut that shook the entire country yesterday has killed at least 100 people, while injuring more than 4,000. The explosion was so massive that it ripped the buildings and blew out windows up to 10 kilometres away. It seems like the end of the 15-year long civil war was not the end of the crisis in Lebanon.
A warehouse near the port, storing 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate, has emerged as the potential source of the explosion. Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the ammonium nitrate, used as an agricultural fertiliser, had been stored for six years at a port warehouse without safety measures, “endangering the safety of citizens”.
Lebanon and crisis go hand-in-hand. The country was already struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 5,000 confirmed cases and 65 dead. While the numbers are relatively low, the virus is spreading to different parts of the country. Doctors have repeatedly warned about the country’s fragile healthcare system, which is already running “beyond its capacity”. The health ministry is struggling to control the rapidly spreading virus in the country.
The crisis in Lebanon started to deepen last year in October when people across 70 towns came out on streets to protest against perceived government corruption, austerity measures and a lack of basic infrastructure, like clean drinking water and continuous electricity. The protest led to the fall of then-prime minister Saad Hariri’s government. However, little has changed since his departure. The economic crisis is so bad that food prices have hiked by 80 percent with electricity blackouts occurring more than ever.
Half of Lebanon’s population lives below the poverty line and 35 percent are unemployed, according to official statistics. The crisis in Lebanon worsened in March, when the country announced it was defaulting on its debts. Lebanon has one of the highest debt ratios in the world – a national debt of $92 billion, which is nearly 170 percent of its GDP.
Two months later, Lebanon started negotiations with the International Monetary Fund to secure a financial aid to save its economy. But the talks haven’t resulted in anything fruitful.
The country of 4.5 million people, now has more than 200,000 homeless people following yesterday’s explosion. The authorities have been struggling to provide medical help, food, water and shelter to them. The death toll is expected to rise further as emergency workers dig through the debris to search for survivors.
The current crisis in Lebanon is “unprecedented and very large”, said secretary-general of the Lebanese Red Cross, Georges Kettaneh. The organisation has set up temporary shelters to provide food and hygiene kits to 1,000 families displaced after the disaster.
Four Lebanese hospitals are already out of service due to the damages caused and beds at the Rafik Hariri University Hospital are occupied with COVID-19 patients. Regional allies – Qatar, Iran, Kuwait, Oman and Jordan – have confirmed to send field hospitals to Lebanon.
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