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World News

Lebanese army finds more explosive chemicals outside Beirut port after huge blast

FILE PHOTO: A view shows the damaged site of the massive blast in Beirut's port area, in Beirut, Lebanon August 31, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon’s army said on Thursday it had found 4.35 tonnes of ammonium nitrate near the entrance to Beirut port, the site of a huge blast last month caused by a large stockpile of the same highly explosive chemical.

Army engineers were “dealing with it,” according to an army statement carried by the state news agency NNA. The statement said the chemicals were found outside entrance nine to the port.

The catastrophic explosion on Aug. 4 that ripped through the city killed about 190 people. The authorities said it was caused by about 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been stacked in unsafe conditions in a port warehouse for years.

The blast smashed entire neighbourhoods, gutting buildings and injuring 6,000 people.

Lebanon’s government quit amid public anger in a nation already brought to its knees by an economic crisis. The public remains anxious that more hazardous materials are being stored badly, putting them at risk.

Earlier on Thursday, President Michel Aoun ordered repairs to be made to old refuelling infrastructure at Beirut airport and called for an investigation into a report that thousands of litres of fuel had leaked from the system.

Beirut airport head Fadi el-Hassan told a news conference that a leak of 84,000 litres of fuel had occurred in March 2019 and repairs were completed in two months. He said international investigators had described the repairs as “satisfactory”.

News of the leak added to concerns about public safety. “No explosion is awaiting us,” Hassan told the news conference.

Reporting by Raya Jalabi; Editing by Edmund Blair

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