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Beirut: Officials ignored warnings of ‘extreme danger’ over 10 times

10:19 PM Aug 08, 2020 | Associated Press

At least 10 times over the past six years, authorities from Lebanon's customs, military, security agencies and judiciary raised alarm that a massive stockpile of explosive chemicals was being kept with almost no safeguard at the port in the heart of Beirut, newly surfaced documents show.

Yet in a circle of negligence, nothing was done - and on Tuesday, the 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate blew up, obliterating the city's main commercial hub and spreading death and wreckage for miles around.

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President Michel Aoun, in office since 2016, said Friday that he was first told of the dangerous stockpile nearly three weeks ago and immediately ordered military and security agencies to do "what was needed." But he suggested his responsibility ended there, saying he had no authority over the port and that previous governments had been told of its presence.

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"Do you know how many problems have been accumulating?" Aoun replied when a reporter pressed whether he should have followed up on his order.

The documents surfacing in social media since the blast underscore the corruption, negligence and incompetence of Lebanon's long-ruling political oligarchy, and its failure to provide its people with basic needs, including security.

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