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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. No injuries were reported and officials said the fire was contained to one place.

Smoke could be seen billowing out over the city’s skyline, as firefighters and military officials battled the blaze.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.

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

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

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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.

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Michel Najjar, the public works minister with the outgoing government, later told Lebanon’s MTV network that initial indications suggested the blaze was started by repair work at the port.

An investigation has been ordered into the cause of the fire.

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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.

“For sure we were scared… it’s only been a month since the explosion that destroyed Beirut. We saw the same thing happening again,” said 53-year-old Andre Muarbes.

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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.

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”.

Talksafrica.com

Source: BBC

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