Lebanon: Huge fire breaks out at Beirut port

Blaze reportedly at warehouse where oil and tyres are kept near site of August explosion

A huge fire has broken out at Beirut’s port, triggering panic among residents traumatised by last month’s massive explosion there that killed and injured thousands of people.

It was not immediately clear what caused the fire at the facility, which was devastated by the explosion on 4 August, when nearly 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate detonated and triggered a shockwave that blasted windows, doors and walls miles away.

A column of black smoke billowed from the port at midday on Thursday, with orange flames leaping from the ground. The Lebanese army said the fire was at a warehouse where oil and tyreswere placed in the duty-free zone, adding that the blaze was still being fought.

Army helicopters were taking part in efforts to extinguish the fire.

Panicked residents cracked open windows and called each other to warn of the new fire. Local TV stations said the companies that had offices near the port had asked their employees to leave the area. Lebanese troops closed the main road that passes near the port, referring traffic to other areas.

The explosion killed more than 190 people, injured about 6,500 and damaged thousands of buildings in the capital. The sight of another huge fire only a month later created panic among residents.

The state-run National News Agency also said the fire was at a warehouse where tyres were kept. It added that firefighters were dealing with the blaze.

A police spokesman, Col Joseph Msalam, said officers had no information about what was happening at the port, adding that the facility was currently under the control of the army.

Asked about reports that the fire was caused by burning tyres and oil, he said: “I don’t know. It could be containers. I really don’t know what is there.”

Associated Press in Beirut

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