Death toll in Lebanon’s fuel explosion rises to 28


The death toll in a fuel tank explosion, which happened in northern Lebanon early on Sunday, rose to 28 people, a Health Ministry spokesman said.

At least 79 others were injured in the blast that occurred in the village of Talil in Akkar province, according to the Lebanese Red Cross.

The army said the tank had exploded on a plot of land which was used to store gravel.

It added in a statement that the army had confiscated the tank to distribute its fuel to people when the blast happened.

“Investigations were launched under the supervision of the competent judiciary to find out about circumstances of the explosion,” the statement said without providing further details.

Lebanese Health Minister Hamad Hassan appealed earlier Sunday to “sisterly countries” to treat some of the severely wounded victims.

He said in an interview with Lebanese television channel al-Jadeed that there were 14 people suffering from severe burns. Seven among them have 70 to 80-per-cent burns across their bodies, the official added.

Some people at the site told local television stations that they heard gunshots being fired from the owner of the fuel, but the mayor of the area said that someone lit his lighter and then the blast occurred.

Former premier Saad Hariri, who has his main supporters in the Akkar region, compared the explosion to the deadly blast that hit the Beirut port in August last year.

“The Akkar massacre is not different from the port massacre,” Hariri wrote on Twitter.

“We are fed up. The lives of the Lebanese and their security is the top priority,” he added.

The Beirut port blast killed at least 190 people and injured around 6,000 others. Large parts of the port and nearby residential areas were destroyed. Some 30,000 people were displaced from their homes.

The port blast was caused by tons of improperly stored ammonium nitrate, but the exact circumstances are still unclear.

Lebanon is experiencing its worst economic crisis since its 15-year civil war ended in 1990.

The currency has lost more than 90 per cent of its value. The government can no longer service loans and large sections of the population have slipped into poverty.

Inflation is running at 120 per cent, and is even higher for food.

Lebanon’s fuel crisis has worsened in recent days.

A shortage of fuel for electricity and transport has led to long lines of frustrated motorists queueing in front of closed petrol stations and waiting in vain for hours to fill up their tanks.

The public have had to go without electricity for hours every day for weeks. Pharmacies have shortages of vital medicines.

The country is also politically paralysed. Its government resigned shortly after the Beirut port explosion and is now in office on a caretaker basis.

A months-long power struggle means a new cabinet has still not been formed, and Lebanon’s political elite faces serious allegations of corruption.

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