The devastated capital of a tormented country


Criminal negligence. For the moment, this is the only way to summarize the responsibilities of the terrible explosion that recently has devastated the port of Beirut, causing more than 150 deaths and thousands of injuries.

According to data and testimonies, the explosion was caused by the fire of a warehouse in which 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate had been stored for years. The hypothesis of a terrorist act has been excluded for now, but the mechanics of this very serious event are still being investigated.

The city is understandably in shock, also because the population is facing the Covid-19 pandemic and the places available in hospitals are fewer and fewer. Furthermore, the country is going through a moment of extremely severe economic crisis which precludes the use of exceptional expenses to cope with disasters. The grain reserves will be enough for just one month.

The economic situation

The country that, up to the 1980s, was considered the “Switzerland of the Middle East”, due to its moderate widespread well-being, is facing the second highest debt in the world and the fear of a food emergency, which is worse than never before. Half of the population is below the poverty line, electricity supply is intermittent, basic social services are on the brink, gasoline is in short supply and the national currency has lost convertibility to the dollar. The corruption of the administrators rages and makes any reform impossible.

The political situation

The political situation is equally serious. The border with Israel is controlled by the military and real power rests in the hands of Hezbollah, the Tehran-funded Shiite party that has the majority support of the population.

The international community

French President Macron went promptly to the site of the explosion, assuring local officials the help of Paris. In many quarters an independent international investigation is being called for to shed light on the tragedy. Unfortunately, for the moment there are no credible traces to follow. The European Commission has mobilized 33 million euros for immediate emergencies.

A society on the brink

Meanwhile, the population is resorting to bartering to survive, using the available internet platforms. There is no hope of improvement in the short term, given the total lack of investment. The country is going through the most difficult moment of its young modern history, and it is in the hands of the international economic institutions which will have to take charge of it.