1:57pm 07/08/2020
Beirut blast: need to enhance safety awareness

Sin Chew Daily

The monster explosion in Beirut port on Tuesday has so far caused at least 145 deaths, with over 5,000 people injured.

Many buildings within a 10km radius from the explosion site were destroyed by the powerful impact from the blast, flattening most of the areas around the port.

The international community has transcended all forms of discrimination and offered a helping hand. France, for example, has promised to send rescue experts and medical personnel while Qatar and Iraq will provide mobile field hospitals to deal with the massive casualties.

The humanitarian spirit in the midst of a tragic event has sent a ray of hope that pierces the gloomiest clouds.

Lebanon is currently experiencing a severe economic crisis, growingly intensified social conflicts and mass protests. With the massive explosion in Beirut port this week, the country which is already suffering so much is taking a further beating. It is hoped that with the assistance from the international community, the country can weather the colossal impact from the blast and stand up again from the rubble.

While offering a helping hand, it is essential for all parties to be more wary of an unannounced disaster in order to pick up a valuable lesson from this tragedy so that similar incidents will not happen again to any country.

It is learned that the tragedy has stemmed from improper storage of ammonium nitrate. What is unfathomable is that why as much as 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate has been allowed to be stored at the port warehouse for six whole years in the absence of any safety measures!

As if that is not enough, the Lebanese customs department has on at least six prior occasions written to the justice department to reship the ammonium nitrate but to no avail.

Something must have gone wrong somewhere. Sure enough the authorities must be held responsible for lax management and poor safety awareness.

The tragedy did not take place overnight but why were the authorities so careless about the storage of such hazardous chemicals?

The Grand Camp fire arising from the 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate stored onboard the cargo ship in the United States in 1947 killed almost 600 people and injured over 3,500 others.

The 2015 explosion in Tianjin's Binhai New Area in China killed 173, again due to ammonium nitrate.

Dangerous chemicals must be stored with extreme caution. This is a very simple commonsense, but unfortunately many people have repeatedly overlooked the potential dangers and have never learned a lesson from past tragedies.

As German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel said: "We learn from history that we do not learn from history."

Governments and authorities worldwide must take cue from the tragic incident in Beirut to build more comprehensive mechanisms to monitor and manage the storage of highly dangerous chemicals. But more importantly, we all need to reawaken our safety awareness and constantly keep a watchful eye to fend off another catastrophe.



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