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The Tragedy of Beirut - A Catastrophe of Failed Governance

It was on Tuesday, August 11, 2020, when the people of Beirut, Lebanon, suffered yet another tragedy as a chemical -  dangerously stored, at the port of Beirut for more than six-years, exploded killing more than 137 people, injuring 5,000, and displacing 300,000 with a number of people still missing. 

This recent tragedy to plague the Lebanese people was reminiscent of the carnage suffered across Beirut in 15-deadly-years of civil war from 1975-1990 that strangled Lebanon and many of its people. 

The tragic explosion at the port of Beirut has exemplified the catastrophe that is Lebanon's failed government amid the COVID-19 pandemic with increasing infections, and amid the country's worse economic woes since the civil war. Many Lebanese consider their government as corrupt. Anti-government demonstrations have been numerous across Beirut over many months in protest of daily power cuts, a lack of safe drinking water and limited public health care, the BBC reported.

Tuesday's tragedy in Beirut was indicative of a 'perfect' accident waiting to happen because of bad governance. President Michel Aoun, as reported by the BBC, has confirmed the explosion was caused by 2,750 metric tons of Ammonium Nitrate (NH4NO3) - a hygroscopic crystalline chemical used as a high-nitrogen fertilizer in agriculture and in bomb-making. The large lot of chemical was stored unsafely in a warehouse at the Beirut port. How and why did the shipment of explosive chemical come to be stored at the port, in the middle of a large metropolitan area, and seven-years after it was impounded, is further confirmation of Lebanon's failed government.

According to the BBC, the shipment of Ammonium Nitrate was not even intended for Lebanon at the time it was impounded in 2013. The volatile chemical was aboard a Moldovan-flagged ship sailing from Georgia to Mozambique when technical problems forced the vessel into the port of Beirut in 2013. Lebanese officials inspected the vessel and banned it from leaving port, where it was eventual abandoned by its owners and the ill-fated cargo stored at the port of Beirut. 

With many Lebanese describing the series of events leading up to and including the explosion as criminal, the government has confirmed that a number of port officials, who were involved with paperwork or storage of the impounded chemical since June 2014, have been placed under house arrest pending an investigation into the deadly event. Communications from the head of the port and the head of customs authority claim they had written to the Judiciary several times asking that the chemical be exported or sold to ensure port safety, the BBC reported, while adding that the government knew about the chemicals and had been warned the chemicals were dangerous and posed great risk to Beirut and Lebanon as a whole.

In Beirut earlier today, in a show of solidarity with the Lebanese people and in bringing French help to its former colony, President Emmanuel Macron confirmed he would not let aid go to "corrupt hands". France24 later confirmed that French aid to Lebanon would be funneled through NGOs in a move that underscores the failed government of Lebanon, under whose watch the tragedy of Beirut, has brought widespread devastation.