On Thursday, a little over a month after a massive blast devastated Beirut, a raging fire in the Lebanese capital’s port spewed thick plumes of smoke over the city.
Video and images posted online showed flames leaping inside a column of black smoke in the same area where nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded on Aug. 4. Other images captured the tornado-like swirl of smoke, rising high into the sky before diffusing out across the city where it hung in a cloud.
It was not immediately clear what caused the fire.
However, the director general of the Beirut port told the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation that the blaze broke out in the building of a company that imports frying oil. It then spread to rubber tires, he said.
The governor of Beirut told residents to evacuate the streets and warned live on LBC that by staying put their lives were in danger and they risked impeding the firetrucks.
Meanwhile, attempts to extinguish the blaze were underway and army helicopters would participate, a spokesperson for the Lebanese army also told the broadcaster. Photos showed firefighters battling the blaze.
Beirut residents remain on edge after the enormous blast killed 191 people and injured 6,000 others. It was considered to be one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded.
A video circulating on social media appeared to show workers at the port running away as the fire raged behind them. Shouts of “let’s go, let’s go” in Arabic can be heard.
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The event will likely trigger painful memories of last month’s blast for those working in the port as well as for emergency responders. Ten firefighters were killed in the August explosion.
Michel El Meouchi, 39, who less than a mile away from the fire described to NBC News that what appeared to be ash was falling from the sky.
His face mask that he wore to protect himself from the coronavirus acted as a shield against debris, he said.
“The sky is dark above us,” he said by phone from the city.
El Meouchi said one problem now in emergency situations was that it was hard to know who or what to trust.
“When you lose trust in the government, you know, what can we do?” he said.
Lebanon was already staggering under the weight of a spiraling economic crisis when last month’s explosion devastated downtown Beirut, killing dozens and leaving thousands homeless.
In the wake of the blast, public anger boiled over once again, triggering the collapse of the government that many accuse of chronic mismanagement and corruption that is widely believed to have enabled the explosion to take place in the first place.
Matthew Mulligan contributed.