Another hellish fire ignites in Beirut – analysis

Questions are being raised about why a serious fire broke out again, blackening the sky.

Smoke rises from Beirut's port area, Lebanon September 10, 2020. (photo credit: ALAA KANAAN/REUTERS)
Smoke rises from Beirut's port area, Lebanon September 10, 2020.
(photo credit: ALAA KANAAN/REUTERS)
A massive fire broke out at Beirut Port on Thursday afternoon a month after a similar fire had led to a massive warehouse explosion that killed 190 people. Beirut is still full of shattered glass and rubble from last month's tragedy and just a week ago searchers were even claiming they thought they had discovered improbably sign of life in a destroyed building. For the Lebanese, however, the tragedy is not over and a new fire has added to the country’s woes.
Flames were large and analysts suggested they may be coming from oil or other stores products. While some locals take it in stride, others are fearful. They open windows so that another shock wave won’t blow down the glass. Others wonder why it took time for authorities to order people to evacuate the area near the fire. Firefighters were sent without being told what was on fire. “So many lives at risk,” one person noted. “No-one in powers shows initiative.” Others point to contradictory officials statements. One statement saying the fire was “planned” by authorities for some reason. It was unclear why you would burn off material in the port. Another from the army says tires caught fire.
Once again there is a sense of helplessness. Anger. Frustration.  
How could a fire start once again in a warehouse at the port. Authorities pointed to storage of oil and tires as a reason. It appears inexplicable that this could happen again. But it is already the second incident in a week. In one sense the swath of destruction around the port is a reason there could be a fire, because search and rescue teams and workers could not clear all the debris. However, questions are being raised about why a serious fire broke out again, blackening the sky.
The investigation into the August 4 warehouse explosion is ongoing. Due to the political crisis in Lebanon that has seen a cabinet resign and witnessed two visits by the French president to try to pressure the country toward reforms, little has been done to actually find the culprits. That is because many do not want there to be clear culprits. Just incompetence is given as the reason why ammonium nitrate was stores at the port for years, the boat it came on having sunk and those responsible having vanished behind shell companies.
Lebanon has difficulty holding anyone accountable for anything. The former prime minister Rafic Hariri was murdered in 2005 by Hezbollah, but Hezbollah is now in parliament and helps control the presidency. A UN investigation accused four Hezbollah members of the killing and found one guilty. There shouldn’t have needed to be such a tribunal in the first place. A country should be able to investigate the killing of its own former prime minister in blast that killed 20. Similarly, the country should be able to secure the port, as its army receives millions in support for the US. But Lebanon can’t do these things and it requires some $93 billion now to be bailed out of an economic crisis that is also largely its own making.  
Meanwhile, in Lebanon Hezbollah and Hamas members have been meeting, toasting their successes. Hamas held a parade at a Palestinian neighborhood. It hasn’t done anything to help clear rubble from the port. It parades with masses of armed men, some of the tens of thousands of illegal rifles in the hands of people in Lebanon, part of the 150,000 illegal rockets that Hezbollah stores in Lebanon. Even as Hamas and Hezbollah have been celebrating, while other Lebanese have been mourning their dead, the new fire rages in Beirut.
Commentators are incredulous and some people are fearful. However, videos show a mixed reaction. Some came to take selfies and video. Workers fled. The fire grew in intensity after around one in the afternoon, with black smoke, allegedly from tires, billowing into the sky.  
Lebanese have reportedly been trying to leave the country. Reports indicate some have made it to Cyprus recently. But in nearby Greece this week a massive refugee camp called Moria on Lesbos burned.  
There has been a heat wave in the region. That has fanned flames. But incompetence and irresponsibility appears to have fanned the flames as well.