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Lebanon's bombing-hoping
Aug 06 , 2020

BBC-As Lebanon's investigation into the devastating blast in Beirut continues, officials have pointed to a possible cause: A massive shipment of agricultural fertilizer that authorities say was stored in the port of Beirut without safety precautions for years -- despite warnings by local officials.

Documents newly reviewed by CNN reveal that a shipment of 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate arrived in Beirut on a Russian-owned vessel in 2013. The ship, named the MV Rhosus, was destined for Mozambique -- but stopped in Beirut due to financial difficulties that also created unrest with the ship's Russian and Ukrainian crew.
Once it arrived, the ship never left Beirut's port, according Lebanon's Director of Customs, Badri Daher, despite repeated warnings by him and others that the cargo was the equivalent of "a floating bomb."
"Due to the extreme danger posed by this stored items in unsuitable climate conditions, we reiterate our request to the Port Authorities to re-export the goods immediately to maintain the safety of the port and those working in it," Daher's predecessor, Chafic Merhi, wrote in a 2016 letter addressed to a judge involved in the case.

Lebanese authorities have not named the MV Rhosus as the source of the substance that ultimately exploded in Beirut on Tuesday, but Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the devastating blast was caused by 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate. He added that the substance had been stored for six years at the port warehouse without safety measures, "endangering the safety of citizens."

Lebanon's general security chief also said a "highly explosive material" had been confiscated years earlier and stored in the warehouse, which is just a few minutes' walk from Beirut's shopping and nightlife districts. Tuesday's massive explosion, which rocked the capital, left at least 135 dead and 5,000 injured.

On Wednesday, Lebanese Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad Najd said there are papers and documents dating back to 2014 proving the existence of an exchange of information about the "material" confiscated by Lebanese authorities. She told Jordan's state-owned channel Al Mamlaka that the exchange is being considered in relation to the potential cause of the deadly Beirut blast.

Asked in a telephone interview if there are any early findings in the investigations related to the cause of the explosion, she said, "There are no preliminary results or clarification."



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