20 dangerous chemical containers in Beirut Port secured after leak found

It is believed many of the containers were punctured last week during the massive explosion that occurred at a port warehouse.

THE DIFFICULT humanitarian situation in Beirut will probably lead to the cancellation of more attacks that Hezbollah planned to carry out against Israel. Photographed: A view of shipping containers at the damaged site of last week’s blast in Beirut’s port area. (photo credit: AZIZ TAHER/REUTERS)
THE DIFFICULT humanitarian situation in Beirut will probably lead to the cancellation of more attacks that Hezbollah planned to carry out against Israel. Photographed: A view of shipping containers at the damaged site of last week’s blast in Beirut’s port area.
(photo credit: AZIZ TAHER/REUTERS)
At least 20 potentially dangerous chemical containers found at the Beirut Port in Lebanon are being secured by firefighters and chemical experts after a leak was found, a member of a French cleanup team told the Associated Press.
It is believed many of the containers were punctured last week during the massive explosion that occurred at a port warehouse, a French chemical expert told AP in a TV interview.
The expert, who was identified only as Lt. Anthony due to government-mandated policies, explained that “We noted the presence of containers with the chemical danger symbol. And then noted that one of the containers was leaking.”
Neither Lt. Anthony nor Lebanese officials told AP about what chemicals were involved, or provided any further details. However, Anthony did suggest that “There are also other flammable liquids in other containers, there are also batteries, or other kind of products which could increase the risk of potential explosion.”
It is currently unclear if there could be any more potentially dangerous containers, with the cleanup teams only being assigned to a specific zone, Anthony told AP.
The cleanup teams, coming from France and Italy, were sent as part of the aid sent by several nations to Beirut, following the massive explosion at the port last week. The explosion, believed to be caused by the storage of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, resulted in the deaths of at least 160 people and injured thousands more.
The Lebanese government had been informed about the storage of ammonium nitrate in July, just two weeks before the explosion, and were warned of the risk of a possible explosion that had the potential of destroying a large chunk of the city, according to documents seen by Reuters.
A report by the General Directorate of State Security about events leading up to the explosion included a reference to a private letter sent to President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Hassan Diab on July 20.
While the content of the letter was not in the report seen by Reuters, a senior security official said it summed up the findings of a judicial investigation launched in January which concluded the chemicals needed to be secured immediately.
The state security report, which confirmed the correspondence to the president and the prime minister, has not previously been reported.
"There was a danger that this material, if stolen, could be used in a terrorist attack," the official told Reuters.
"At the end of the investigation, Prosecutor General (Ghassan) Oweidat prepared a final report which was sent to the authorities," he said, referring to the letter sent to the prime minister and president by the General Directorate of State Security, which oversees port security.
"I warned them that this could destroy Beirut if it exploded," said the official, who was involved in writing the letter and declined to be named.
Reuters could not independently confirm his description of the letter.
The explosion came during an ongoing financial crisis in Lebanon, whose economy suffering severely amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition, the explosion also sparked a new wave of protests against the regime, demanding that the government resign.
The Lebanese government has long been believed to be plagued by corruption and Iranian influence.
Following widespread calls by protesters as well as by members of the French government, Diab announced the full resignation of the government due to endemic corruption.
"Today we follow the will of the people in their demand to hold accountable those responsible for the disaster that has been in hiding for seven years, and their desire for real change," Diab said in a speech announcing the resignation.