Updated August 5, 2020
BEIRUT—Lebanon is in a two-week state of emergency after a deadly massive explosion caused widespread destruction across the capital on Tuesday.
The government has ordered port officials to be placed under house arrest for suspected negligence as investigators comb through the wreckage, digging for survivors and clues that may lead to the cause of Tuesday’s blast. Lebanese authorities say 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate have been in storage at the industrial port for six years. “I will not rest until I find out who is responsible for what happened and hold him accountable,” said Lebanese PM Hassan Diab during an emergency meeting, where leaders also approved the allocation of 100 billion Lebanese pounds to deal with the crisis.
Meanwhile, a frantic search is underway throughout the country for survivors. At least 100 people have been confirmed dead, but officials fear the death toll could rise in the coming days. Thousands more are injured, packing into overwhelmed hospitals. The Armenian Relief Cross of Lebanon is backing fatigued hospitals by opening the doors of its Araxi Boulghourjian Socio-Medical Center to provide additional services. An estimated 300,000 people have been left homeless, their homes demolished. Sources tell the Weekly that at least 11 Armenians have died.
Beirut has historically been home to a large segment of the Diasporan Armenian population, many of whom reside in and around the Armenian quarters of Bourj Hammoud. Many Armenian cultural centers have been damaged including the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Rosdom club in Achrafieh and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Shaghzoyan center, which houses the editorial offices of Aztag Daily and Vana Tsayn Radio. Haigazian University reports sustained damage in every building and every floor, and the United Armenian College also reports extensive material losses.
—August 4, 2020—
BEIRUT—A massive explosion devastated the capital of Lebanon on Tuesday, killing dozens of people and causing widespread damage and injuries across the city.
Officials are now investigating the cause of the blast, which occurred at the Beirut port during evening rush hour. Lebanon’s security chief Major General Abbas Ibrahim told reporters upon touring the ruins that it appears the explosion was caused by highly explosive material in a warehouse at the industrial port, which serves as an economic lifeline for the small country that is already experiencing a deepening economic and political crisis. Health Minister Hassan Hamad says 25 people have died so far, and more than two-thousand people are hurt. The Secretary General of Lebanon’s Kataeb Party, Nazar Najarian, is among the casualties.
The scale of the damage left in the wake of the explosion is startling in chaotic footage that is being broadcast on social media and local and international news outlets.
“Thank God, we are safe,” said Weekly contributor Yeghia Tashjian, who lives in Beirut. Tashjian is estimating thousands of injuries, as he describes the wreckage of his neighborhood. “We still don’t know what really happened,” he continued.
For its part, Cilicia TV—the media hub of the Armenian Church Catholicosate of Cilicia—went live in the immediate aftermath to document His Holiness Aram I touring the Armenian quarters of Bourj Hammoud. Astounded, he asked a business owner in Armenian, “Is this glass or snow?” “It’s glass,” he replied, assuring His Holiness that no one was harmed. His Holiness also visited the Sardarabard cultural center, which was housing several people who were wounded. Asbarez is reporting the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Shaghzoyan center, which houses the editorial offices of Aztag Daily and the Vana Tsayn Radio station, has been damaged, but no injuries have been reported.
This is a developing story.