As you may already have heard from the international media, a massive explosion took place yesterday afternoon in the Port of Beirut. While the cause of the blast was not immediately clear, the explosion is at present being apparently attributed to an incident related to welding being carried out at the entrance to a warehouse containing a cargo of ammonium nitrate stored in the said warehouse for a number of years. The blast had a disastrous effect on the Lebanese capital, with nearly all buildings in a 5 km radius being damaged or destroyed while almost totally flattening the port. As at the present time, at least 100 people are known to have died and over 4,000 people injured. Officials said they expect the death toll to rise further as emergency workers resume their work to rescue people and help the wounded.

The port of Beirut, being the biggest and most vital port of Lebanon, receives approximately 70% of the total goods entering the Lebanese territory and represents an essential part of the storage capacity of Lebanon, with the wheat silos and the various large warehouses spread throughout the free zone of 81,000 sq. meters in the port area. Initial reports confirm that almost all of the port logistical infrastructure has been destroyed, along with most of the commodities present in the port area at the time of the blast. Beirut silos were also substantially damaged as a result of the explosion together with the cargo stored therein. We anticipate that vessels calling Beirut port may have to be diverted to Tripoli for operational purposes.

A UNIFIL maritime task force ship that was docked at the capital’s port was also damaged and some UNIFIL personnel were injured as confirmed by a UN statement on Tuesday. Reports also stated that two vessels discharging wheat at the time of the blast were affected with a number of crewmembers injured on board However, the status of the other vessels that were at the port of Beirut at the time of the incident remains unknown.

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