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Business guide: Beirut port explosions - Lebanon response, August 2020

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On August 4th at approximately 18h00 local time, a warehouse at the Beirut Port containing large quantities of ammonium nitrate exploded. After an initial explosion, a subsequent blast caused widespread destruction, with reports of damage more than 20 kilometers from the port area. The explosions and ensuing fires reportedly released toxic materials in the environment. At least 178 people were killed, and an estimated 6,000 people were injured, while some 30 people remain missing.

While the full extent of the impact is still being assessed, early reports indicate significant damage to infrastructure (including health, water and sanitation, and schools) and critical infrastructure essential for food supply and livelihoods. More than 47,000 apartments sustain some level of damage, affecting more than 170,000 residents. At least 20 primary health care centers have been severely damaged and at least six hospitals have been rendered partially or fully inoperable. An additional 120 schools, used by 55,000 Lebanese and non-Lebanese children, sustained various levels of damage. The food stored in warehouses at the Beirut Port was also destroyed by the explosions, including 85 per cent of the country’s cereal reserves, and it is estimated that, at regular consumption rates, the remaining grain supply in country is sufficient for 4-6 weeks. The trauma suffered extends beyond the physical reconstruction and mental health needs will remain manifest, especially for already vulnerable populations.

The explosions come as Lebanon faces a multi-faceted crisis. In recent months, economic contraction, increasing poverty and rising prices have compounded needs among Lebanese and non-Lebanese communities, including the large refugee population in Lebanon. An increase in COVID-19 transmissions is straining the country’s health systems. Social tensions and civil unrest continue to grow in many parts of the country and led to the Government’s resignation on August 10th.

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