Beirut’s explosion: some musings

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Wania Salehyar Janjua

A large blast on the 4th of august was heard by millions of Lebanese citizens followed by a mushroom cloud of smoke. Hospitals were completely overwhelmed by the overflow of patients and lack of corresponding resources.

Over 3000 people have become homeless. The harrowing incident took place at the port where 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate had been stored for 6 years. Port officials were blamed for their severe lack of foresight and downright irresponsible behavior. They are now being kept on house arrest.

The explosion has placed the country at the mercy of humanitarian aid as not only did it obliterate the already struggling capital of the country but also further strained their already tight food and medical supplies including their COVID-19 response.

WHO( World Health Organization) claims that 3 hospitals had to be shutdown due to irreversible damage and 2 have suffered significant impairment. A shipment of COVID- 19 was destroyed at the port as well. Health workforce again comes under pressure to provide aid and medical supplies to citizens whilst their own life hangs in the balance not only due to COVID but also the intense chemical fumes due to the blast.

The preexisting economic crisis has now been made incomprehensibly more difficult. Citizens worried about food safety and a lack of medical supplies before as well but this has proved to be fatal as now thousands struggle.

Morale is understandably low as people struggle to accept the loss of their beloved capital, family and their safety.

The incident ceases to minimize its detrimental effect, as the long term impacts may infact be worse. “The main long term hazard is from combustion products such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are carcinogenic,” Roy Harrison, professor of environmental health at University of Birmingham. And more recently this means that the exposed will experience a reduction in lung function and also worsen symptoms in people with asthma.

American president, Donald trump commented,” Whatever happened, its terrible. But they don’t really know what it is. Nobody knows yet. At this moment, they’re looking. How could you say accident?” he told reporters. “Somebody left some terrible explosive devices and things around, perhaps. Perhaps it was that. Perhaps it was an attack.” This fear mongering behavior is a specialty of the 74 year old who is known for inciting terror. However officials quickly shut it down as the blast was a management failure.

Foreign response has been incredible. Arab countries like Saudia Arabia, Qatar, Tunisia, Egypt and the UAE have all contributed food and medical supplies and pledged aid. Over a billion dollars have been collected in aid in the 5 days following the blast. Including the European Union pledging over 30 million euros over the aid already provided as well as France offering construction materials to rebuild the city.

Over 8 tonnes worth of supplies were sent from Pakistan as a token of Muslim solidarity in difficult times. Prime minister, Imran khan conveyed his sincerest condolences to Lebanese officials in light of the devastating events.