BEIRUT (AP) — At least 10 times over the past six years, authorities from Lebanon’s customs, military, security agencies and judiciary raised alarm that a massive stockpile of explosive chemicals was being kept with almost no safeguard at the port in the heart of Beirut, newly surfaced documents show.
Yet in a circle of negligence, nothing was done — and on Tuesday, the 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate blew up, obliterating the city’s main commercial hub and spreading death and wreckage for miles around.
...Daher, the customs department head, told the AP before his detention that between 2014 and 2017, he and his predecessor sent six letters to the judge warning that the stockpile was dangerous and seeking a ruling on a way to remove or sell it. Daher said it was his duty to alert authorities of the danger but that was the most he could do. He said he never got a reply.
Earlier this year, State Security, after investigating the stockpile, issued a five-page report saying the material must be gotten rid of. It said the ammonium nitrate could explode and warned terrorists could steal it, saying one wall of the warehouse had a hole in it and a gate was open....For those of us who deal with chemicals on the ton scale, this is a good reminder of the importance of knowing what's in our inventories, their hazards and the importance of addressing them in a timely fashion.
(God help me if I were ever stuck with 2750 MT of someone else's potentially explosive material.)