The material damage caused by the Tuesday explosion at Beirut port ranges between $3bn and $5bn, and could be more, Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud said on Wednesday.
In statements to the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI), Abboud added that 10 members of the Beirut Fire Brigade are missing, and 300,000 residents were left homeless as the blast destroyed their houses.
In previous media statements on Tuesday, the Beirut Governor said that contact was lost with a fire-fighting team consisting of 10 members who had been sent to extinguish the fire following the first explosion at the port.
He added, “Beirut has become a disaster city, half of which has been destroyed, with hundreds of thousands of its residents not able to return to their homes before two or three months.”
According to preliminary investigations, the explosion was due to highly explosive materials that had been confiscated years ago, and were stored in a warehouse in the Beirut port area.
Abboud likened those confiscated materials to a “nuclear bomb.” He criticised the judiciary system for its decision to confiscate those explosive materials, saying, “They sacrificed half of the Lebanese state for that [the material].”
Moreover, George Kettana, Secretary-General of the Lebanese Red Cross, said on Wednesday, “There are more than 4,000 injuries as a result of the explosion, some of them are serious, and the number of fatalities may reach 100 with some victims still under the rubble.”
The latest incident adds to the suffering of Lebanon, which needs up to $93bn to save its economy, according to a report by the American Institute for the Defense of Democracy.
The report indicates that the Beirut government needs $67bn in new funds to stabilise the country’s banking sector, assuming an informal exchange rate of 4,000 Lebanese pounds against the US dollar.
This does not include the $22bn in losses incurred by Banque Du Liban (Lebanon’s Central Bank), nor the expected net losses of $4.2bn or more on bad Eurobonds. The report added that this does not cover even the needed public infrastructure development and other needs.
Current figures suggest that more than 100 have died and over 4,000 have been wounded as a result of the explosion. Initial suggestions say that the blast was apparently caused by a fire that ignited 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate left unsecured in a warehouse.