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Huge fire breaks out at Beirut port a month after explosion

BEIRUT: A huge fire broke out today (Thursday) at Beirut’s port, the site of last month’s catastrophic explosion that killed nearly 200 people, triggering panic among residents.

It was not immediately clear what caused the fire at the facility, which was devastated by the explosion on 4 August, when nearly 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate detonated. The blast triggered a shock wave that blew out windows, doors and walls miles away.

A column of thick black smoke billowed from the port, with orange flames leaping from the ground. The firefighters and ambulances rushed to the scene. Army helicopters were taking part in efforts to extinguish the fire.

Panicked residents cracked open windows and called each other to warn of the new fire. Local TV stations reported that the companies that had offices near the port had asked their employees to leave the area.

Lebanese troops closed the main road that passes near the port, referring traffic to other areas. The Lebanese army informed that the fire started at a warehouse where oil and tires are placed in the duty free zone.

Beirut Gov Marwan Abboud and authorities called on people to stay away from roads leading to the port to allow fire engines to move quickly.

Port director Bassem al-Qaisi said that the fire started in a warehouse where barrels of cooking oil were placed and later spread nearby to where tires were piled.

“It is too early to know if it is the result of heat or some other mistake,” al-Qaissi said adding that the black smoke was from burning tires. A video circulating on social media showed port workers running away in fear as soon as the fire broke out.

The August 4 explosion killed more than 190 people, injured around 6,500, and damaged thousands of buildings in the Lebanese capital. The explosion is blamed on government negligence and mismanagement.

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