Fuel tank explodes in northern Lebanon, at least 22 killed

Written by on August 15, 2021

An fuel tank exploded in the Akkar region of northern Lebanon on Saturday night, killing at least 22 people and injuring at least 79, according to the Lebanon’s Health Minister. 

Some 22 divisions of the Red Cross arrived at the scene to transfer the dead and wounded. Initial reports indicated that many of the injuries were severe.

— ‏﮼مـصـدر ‏﮼مسـؤول (@MMas2ool) August 15, 2021

A number of local residents gathered at the site of the explosion in the morning, throwing stones at soldiers and setting fire to a truck owned by the owner of the fuel warehouse, according to Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA).

Assad Dargham, an MP from the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), an ally of Hezbollah, stated that the owner of the warehouse was not affiliated with the FPM, but instead belongs to another political movement and “is known for his political loyalty and commercial relations with some MPs from another bloc,” according to NNA. Dargham did not specify which party the owner was affiliated with.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has requested that the judiciary investigate the circumstances of the explosion.

Joseph Mansour, the mayor of Al-Tleil, told MTV Lebanon that there were 18,000 liters of gasoline in the warehouse and that reports that the warehouse was used to smuggle fuel into Syria is incorrect.

A number of people were missing after the blast, according to An-Nahar. According to MTV Lebanon, over 200 people were present at the site of the explosion when it occurred.

Hospitals in the area began requesting blood donations to treat the wounded.

The cause of the explosion is as of yet unclear.

MTV Lebanon reported on Sunday morning that preliminary information showed that the fuel at the site of the explosion was being collected in preparation for it to be smuggled into Syria. Hezbollah has been accused of smuggling oil from Lebanon into Syria in the past.

In January, an explosion at a gas storage warehouse reportedly used by smugglers injured 10 people. Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported at the time that the warehouse was owned by a person who is close with Hezbollah.

On Saturday, the Lebanese Army had announced that it was searching gas stations and confiscating hoarded fuel, as the country suffers from an oil shortage amid a worsening economic crisis.

Lebanon’s Janoubia news reported that the explosion took place in fuel tanks that had been confiscated by the Lebanese Army.

“Our hearts on this night are with the people of Al-Tleil and Akkar,” tweeted Lebanese PM Gebran Bassil. “We pray for the mercy of the martyrs and wish a speedy recovery to the wounded and injured.”

Former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri responded to the disaster on Saturday night, stating “The Akkar massacre is not different from the port massacre.”

“May God have mercy on the martyrs and put them in peace. May God heal the wounded and injured,” tweeted Hariri. “What would have happened in the two crimes, if there was a state that respects people, is its officials would resign, starting with the president of the republic to the last person responsible for this neglect. Enough is enough. The lives and security of the Lebanese are a priority.”

“Akkar is one of the poorest and most deprived regions of Lebanon, and it is now living in an actual, not a metaphorical, hell,” wrote Lebanese journalist Diana Moukalled on Twitter. “The fuel thieves and the criminal political class are responsible for the massacre of the night that killed twenty people and wounded.”

This is a developing story.

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