A massive fire broke out at Beirut Port Thursday, and the Lebanese Army called on people to vacate the vicinity of the facility, just over one month after a catastrophic explosion ripped through the capital.
A thick plume of smoke covered the city like a black cloud, blocking out the sun and causing residents still traumatized from the Aug. 4 explosion to panic and attempt to evacuate the area.
The cause of the fire is not yet clear, an Army source told The Daily Star. Civil Defense teams and fire fighters have been dispatched to put out the fire. An Army helicopter flew over the site and dumped water over the blaze.
The source confirmed the fire was coming from Warehouse 19 in the duty-free area by the port – already damaged from the explosion – which contained oil and tire deposits.
Newly appointed Director-General of Beirut Port Bassem al-Kaissi later confirmed that the fire started in a duty-free warehouse belonging to a company that imports plant oil. The fire then spread to stored tires.
"I am forced to get them out of Beirut from the smoke and the fire that is happening at the port again," Majed Hassanein, 49, who was taking his wife and two children by car, told Reuters.
He said his son was still suffering shock from the blast that ruined a swathe of capital near the port and shattered windows across the city.
"Insane fire at the port, causing a panic all across Beirut. We just can't catch a break," Human Rights Watch researcher Aya Majzoub wrote on Twitter.
A video circulating on social media showed workers at the port running away in fear as soon as the fire broke out, a chilling reminder of last month’s blast that killed dozens of port employees and 10 fire fighters.
The August blast had leveled most of the port and destroyed warehouses, containers and ships in the vicinity. The fire seemed to have ignited in a structure already teetering on the verge of collapse.
While an Army source said there was no fear of an explosion, Beirut Gov. Marwan Abboud called on people to evacuate the streets because “their presence endangers their lives and impedes the flow of fire trucks,” local media reported. Chief of the Lebanese Red Cross said that some people were experiencing shortness of breath.
Several videos Thursday afternoon showed thick black smoke and large orange flames raging from the port area, where an explosion had erupted on Aug. 4 killing at least 192 people and injuring more than 6,500. The explosion was a result of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, which had been carelessly stored by authorities in a port warehouse since 2014.
It was the second fire at the port this week. On Tuesday, a small fire erupted, also creating some panic, but was quickly extinguished.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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