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Aftermath of Lebanon blast

On August 4, an explosion caused by ammonium nitrate left Beirut in ruins. 2750 tons of ammonium nitrate went into the air and people still do not know what caused it to explode. The explosion killed more than 200 people, wounded 5000 others, and left 300,000 residents temporarily homeless. Many buildings including Beirut’s port, homes, and businesses were destroyed by the explosion. The explosion caused COVID to become a problem for a country that is already dealing with corrupt and inept leaders, a worsening economic crisis, and a 55% poverty rate. Beirut residents have worked and are continuing to work on cleaning up their city. Recently even reconstruction has begun.


Lebanon’s leaders have been known to be corrupt and inept, with many accusations against them. After the explosion, Lebanon’s prime minister Hassan Dieb said that it was unacceptable that the shipment of ammonium nitrate had been sitting in the warehouse on the dock for 6 years. \


Although there were multiple documents that suggest that the government agencies in Lebanon knew about the presence of ammonium nitrate, which includes the Ministry of Justice. After the explosion, protesters occupied several government agencies and threw rocks and shards of glass at security forces. Rubber bullets, batons, hundreds of rounds of tear gas, and in some cases live fire was used by police. Less than a week after the blast, some of Lebanon’s politicians had stepped down. So far the protests have not made any significant progress towards installing a new governing system.


Ammonium nitrate, which caused the explosion, is extremely volatile and is used in agriculture. However, most of the fumes from the various types of nitrates are gone. The chemicals had dissipated in the days after the explosion.


A concern is that dust may be carrying toxins. The dust can also be a problem for those who have asthma and allergy problems. Another concern is that the combination of demolition, cleanup, and reconstruction has created lots of particles in the air. The particles might cause acute and chronic illnesses, which depends on the amount of time you were exposed. Testings from the ground and air have been gathered. People are worried about the high levels of heavy metals that have been leftover from the blast and are now in the air.


There is also worry that sewage, which came from the pipes from the buildings, may have infiltrated the main portable water lines causing water tests to be run.


The explosion has made COVID a large issue and has caused COVID prevention to decrease. People before were already tired of confinement and had gatherings in July to August. In addition to that, the country opened causing people to fly into the country. After the explosion, people did not care about COVID preventative measures.


These factors have caused COVID numbers to have skyrocketed for Lebanon. Before the explosion, there were 15 or 20 deaths and a few thousand cases. After the explosion occurred, there were 183 deaths and 19,490 COVID cases. Testing plans have also been affected.


Plans to conduct a population-based antibody study in terms of immunity was planned for August but had to be pushed back to the end of September. It is being recommended that people, including research teams and hospitals, continue COVID precautions even during the aftermath of this crisis.


Research Coordinator - Jezreel Gaad

Editor - Priyam Kusundal

Graphics - Thea Sinsin


Sources:

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/09/absolutely-horrendous-scientists-discuss-beirut-s-blast-and-how-they-are-coping-its#

https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/04/middleeast/beirut-life-rubble-intl-hnk/index.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/08/world/middleeast/Beirut-explosion-protests-lebanon.html




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