NEG­LI­GENCE PROBED IN BEIRUT BLAST

Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION | WORLD - BY BASSEM MROUE, ZEINA KARAM AND SARAH EL DEEB

BEIRUT — In­ves­ti­ga­tors prob­ing the deadly blast that ripped across Beirut fo­cused Wed­nes­day on pos­si­ble neg­li­gence in the stor­age of tons of a highly ex­plo­sive fer­til­izer in a wa­ter­front ware­house, while the govern­ment or­dered the house ar­rest of sev­eral port of­fi­cials.

Pub­lic anger mounted against the rul­ing elite that is be­ing blamed for the chronic mis­man­age­ment and care­less­ness that led to the dis­as­ter, which the Health Min­istry said killed 135 peo­ple and in­jured about 5,000 oth­ers. The Port of Beirut and cus­toms of­fice is no­to­ri­ous for be­ing one of the most cor­rupt and lu­cra­tive in­sti­tu­tions in Le­banon where var­i­ous fac­tions and politi­cians, in­clud­ing Hezbol­lah, hold sway.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is fo­cus­ing on how 2,750 tons of am­mo­nium ni­trate, a highly ex­plo­sive chemical used in fer­til­iz­ers, came to be stored at the fa­cil­ity for six years, and why noth­ing was done about it.

Beirut Gov. Mar­wan Ab­boud told Sau­diowned TV sta­tion Al-Ha­dath that nearly 300,000 peo­ple are home­less.

“Beirut as we know it is gone and peo­ple won’t be able to re­build their lives,” said Amy, a woman who swept glass from a small al­ley be­side by a tall build­ing that served as a show­room for a fa­mous Le­banese de­signer and was a neigh­bor­hood land­mark.

“This is hell. How are they (peo­ple) going to sur­vive. What are they going to do?” she said, blam­ing of­fi­cials for lack of re­spon­si­bil­ity and “stu­pid­ity.”

Trump con­tin­ues to sug­gest ex­plo­sion may have been an at­tack

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Wed­nes­day con­tin­ued to sug­gest that the mas­sive ex­plo­sion might have been a de­lib­er­ate at­tack, even his own de­fense chief said it’s be­lieved to have be an ac­ci­dent.

On Tues­day, Trump called the ex­plo­sion a “ter­ri­ble at­tack” and said Amer­i­can gen­er­als told him it was likely caused by a bomb.

De­fense Sec­re­tary Mark Esper con­tra­dicted the pres­i­dent Wed­nes­day, say­ing most peo­ple be­lieve the ex­plo­sion “was an ac­ci­dent, as re­ported.”

But later in the day, Trump in­sisted no­body knows for sure.

“How can you say ac­ci­dent if some­body left some ter­ri­ble ex­plo­sive-type de­vices and things around per­haps — per­haps it was that. Per­haps it was an at­tack,” Trump said.

MAXAR TECH­NOLO­GIES VIA AP

This com­bi­na­tion of pictures shows the Port of Beirut be­fore and after Tues­day’s ex­plo­sion. JUNE 2 WED­NES­DAY

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