Lebanon's army finds 4.35 tonnes more explosive chemicals near Beirut port

Aerial view taken Aug. 26, 2020, shows the damaged Beirut port.
Aerial view taken Aug. 26, 2020, shows the damaged Beirut port. © AFP

Lebanon's army said on Thursday it had found 4.35 tonnes of ammonium nitrate near the entrance to the Beirut port, the site of a huge blast last month caused by a large stockpile of the same highly explosive chemical. 


Lebanese army engineers were "dealing with it", according to an army statement carried by the state news agency NNA. The statement said the chemicals were found outside entrance nine to the port.

Army experts were called in for an inspection and found 4.35 tonnes of the dangerous chemical in four containers stored near the port, according to the military. There were no details on the origin of the chemicals or their owner.

The revelation came nearly a month after a catastrophic explosion on August 4 ripped through the city, killing around 190 people. The authorities said it was caused by about 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been stacked in unsafe conditions in a port warehouse for years.

The blast smashed entire neighbourhoods, gutting buildings and injuring 6,000 people.

Signs of life under rubble

Nearly a month after the devastating blast, Lebanese rescue workers detected signs of life on Thursday in the rubble of a collapsed building in the Gemmayze area of Beirut.

Rescue worker Eddy Bitar told reporters at the scene that a team with a rescue dog had detected movement under the rubble. "These [signs of breathing and pulse] along with the temperature sensor means there is a possibility of life," he said.

On Wednesday night, a sniffer dog used by Chilean rescuers responded to a scent from the site, the city's governor Marwan Abboud told reporters at the scene. 

"There could be survivors," said Aboud, explaining that scanners had detected a pulse, however faint the hope of finding anyone alive more than four weeks after the explosion.

International experts, investigators helping Lebanon

Days after the August 4 blast, French and Italian chemical experts working amid the remains of the port identified more than 20 containers carrying dangerous chemicals. The army later said that these containers were moved and stored safely in locations away from the port. 

French experts as well as the FBI are aiding the investigation into the blast, at the request of Lebanese authorities. Their findings have yet to be released.

So far, authorities have detained 25 people over last month's explosion, most of them port and customs officials.

Lebanon's government quit amid public anger in a nation already brought to its knees by an economic crisis. The public remains anxious that more hazardous materials are being stored badly, putting them at risk.

Earlier this week, French President Emmanuel Macron visited Lebanon for the second time since the deadly Beirut port blast. During his 24-hour visit, Macron called for reforms aimed at dragging the Middle East nation out of a financial abyss.

'No explosion awaiting us'

On Thursday, Lebanese President Michel Aoun ordered repairs to be made to old refuelling infrastructure at Beirut airport and called for an investigation into a report that thousands of litres of fuel had leaked from the system.

Beirut airport head Fadi el-Hassan told a news conference earlier Thursday that a leak of 84,000 litres of fuel had occurred in March 2019 and repairs were completed in two months. He said international investigators had described the repairs as "satisfactory".

News of the leak added to concerns about public safety. "No explosion is awaiting us," Hassan told the news conference.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning