BEIRUT — Dozens are dead and injured after a gasoline tanker exploded in the town of Tleil in Akkar early Sunday morning.
Here’s what we know:
• Twenty-eight people were killed as a result of the explosion, a Health Ministry spokesperson confirmed to L'Orient Today Sunday afternoon. The Lebanese Red Cross reported that at least 79 had been injured.
• The National News Agency reported that while the circumstances are still unclear, it appears that the tanker was in a hidden warehouse that the “Akkar Revolutionaries” group had discovered, and people from the area gathered to fill up with gasoline, while the Lebanese Army came to the scene “to deal with matters.” After the army left the area at night, NNA reported, “there was a huge stampede by the people of the area to fill the remaining gasoline in the tank, where the explosion occurred.”
• Some 60,000 liters of gasoline and 40,000 liters of diesel were stored in the warehouse, Charbel Aboud, a former mayor and current municipality member of Tleil, told L’Orient Today.
• Local media reported the mayor of Tleil said someone had lit a lighter at the scene, causing the explosion.
• Marwa al-Cheikh, whose brother — a soldier — was injured in the explosion, told L’Orient Today many of the casualties were members of the Lebanese Army.
• L’Orient Today could not immediately reach an army spokesperson for comment; however, the army released a statement saying it had arrested the son of the owner of the land on which the fuel truck exploded. The explosion led to several casualties among civilians and military personnel, the statement added. The army did not provide the number of casualties, either civilian or military.
• Emergency responders from the Lebanese Army, Red Cross, Civil Defense and the Emergency and Relief Corps of Tripoli are searching the area for other victims and have put out calls to donate blood to hospitals in the area.
• A video circulating on social media shows scores of Akkar residents stopping a military bus in the area and calling on army personnel to refrain from carrying out their duties today. “This $40 [salary], no need to take,” the protesters said, referring to the market value of an average soldier’s salary in a country where the national currency has lost 90 percent of its value over the past two years. Some soldiers left the bus, the video shows.
• “If things continue this way … the country will explode,” Jaafar, a soldier whose brother — a military member — was injured in the explosion and whose brother-in-law — another soldier — remains missing, told L’Orient Today.
• George Kettaneh of the Lebanese Red Cross told local media that first responders received reports of an explosion shortly before 2 a.m. and that the disaster would pile pressure on the burn units at the Lebanese Hospital Geitawi in Beirut and the country’s other specialist facility, in the northern city of Tripoli. Meanwhile, AFP reported that Yassine Metlej, an employee at an Akkar hospital, said it had received at least seven corpses and dozens of burn victims. “The corpses are so charred that we can't identify them,” he told AFP, adding, “Some have lost their faces, others their arms.”
• So far 10 people injured in the explosion have been transported to the burn unit at the Lebanese Hospital Geitawi in Beirut, Sister Hadia Abi Cheblithe, a member of the hospital’s board of directors told L’Orient Today, adding that the facility is expecting a further 12 victims of the explosion to arrive shortly. The influx of patients comes as the hospital struggles, like other health facilities across the country, to continue providing medical care amid dire pharmaceutical, equipment and fuel shortages. Abi Cheblithe said that medicine shortages mean the hospital cannot ensure the patients’ treatment. “We are in need of creams, medicaments, including Flamazine, Mebo, Propofol and materials to treat them [the victims] ... we call on anyone who has any burn-related creams to donate them to us so that we can help as many victims as we can,” she said.
• The Akkar Revolutionaries posted on its Facebook page, “Mercy to the victims, a speedy recovery to the wounded, and patience and solace to all of us. RIP Akkar’s martyrs.”
• President Michel Aoun convened an “extraordinary” Higher Defense Council meeting to discuss the repercussions of the explosion. During the meeting, Aoun called on the judiciary to investigate the cause of the fuel truck explosion in Akkar and prosecute those responsible. The president asked that the tragedy “not be politicized” and called for “solidarity in these difficult moments.”
• Recently resigned Prime Minister-designate MP Saad Hariri (Future/Beirut II) posted on Twitter that “if there was a state that respects people, its officials would resign, starting with the President of the Republic to the last person responsible for this neglect.” Four out of the seven MPs in Akkar are members of the Future Movement bloc.
• In response to Hariri’s remarks, the Free Patriotic Movement, which is led by the president’s son-in-law MP Gebran Bassil, issued a statement claiming that the owner of the land on which the fuel truck was stored “is close to the Future Movement,” particularly Akkar MPs Tarek Merehbi and Mohammad Sleiman. The owner of the land’s family denied any affiliation with political parties.
• Hundreds of local residents rushed to the scene Sunday morning, the NNA reported. Some took out their anger by throwing rocks at army units, while others set fire to a truck owned by the alleged owner of the warehouse where the fuel had been stored and later in the day set fire to his house. The warehouse owner’s family claimed that they were unaware of the presence of gasoline in the tanker. The family did not name the tanker’s owner, but said that they had communicated his name to security forces.
BEIRUT — Dozens are dead and injured after a gasoline tanker exploded in the town of Tleil in Akkar early Sunday morning.Here’s what we know: • Twenty-eight people were killed as a result of the explosion, a Health Ministry spokesperson confirmed to L'Orient Today Sunday afternoon. The Lebanese Red Cross reported that at least 79 had been injured. • The...