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Fallout From Beirut Explosion Is Second Blast

August 8, 2020

It has been one of those weeks when an event of severe gravity morphs into another of sizable dimensions.  Watching and reading this week of the events from Lebanon underscore the need for a strong international team at our State Department and links with international players that are healthy and ready to seek solutions. Our nation does not have either at this time.

Where the events in Lebanon leads is near impossible to predict.  The New Yorker has one of those capsulized columns that places the Beirut port explosion and the breaking of a country into a must-read.

Lebanon is now on the verge of collapse. It was already a failing state before twin explosions ripped through Beirut’s scenic port, shortly after rush hour began, at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. The second blast set off a billowing mushroom cloud, reminiscent of a nuclear bomb, and registered seismic waves equivalent to a 3.3-magnitude earthquake. The explosion was heard as far away as Cyprus, an island more than a hundred and twenty miles to the northwest. The Lebanese government appealed to every ambulance in the country to head for Beirut. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than a hundred and thirty-five had died, more than five thousand were wounded, and untold numbers were still missing. Hospitals, already overwhelmed with covid-19 patients, treated many of the injured on sidewalks and roads, or turned them away. “There is an acute shortage of everything,” the country’s health minister, Hamad Hasan, told reporters.

Lebanon now faces existential challenges. The blasts destroyed office buildings and apartment blocks across the capital as well as its largest port, which is critical to the trade and imports on which Lebanon is dependent. One governor estimated that more than a quarter million were left homeless, compounding the challenges of absorbing hundreds of thousands of Syrian war refugees in a country of fewer than seven million. A row of towering wheat silos, which play a central role in the country’s importing and storing of food, were among the facilities destroyed at the port. “No words can describe the horror that has hit Beirut last night, turning it into a disaster-stricken city,” President Michel Aoun said at an emergency Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, as smoke still rose from the port. “The Apocalypse,” a headline in the Lebanese daily L’Orient-Le Jour read.

The blasts could not have come at a worse time for the country. They may mark the end of modern Lebanon as we know it. The physical signs are everywhere: once famed for its robust night life and rich cultural outlets, Beirut recently has had no electricity for up to twenty hours a day. Rescue efforts were hampered by the power outages. Rancid garbage lines streets and fills open spaces, owing to squabbling among political factions over which of their allies should get the contract to collect it. Potable water is often in short supply.

 

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