On Thursday, just over a month after a huge explosion Beirut, A fierce fire in the port of the Lebanese capital broke thick smoke over the city.
Video and images posted on the internet showed flames jumping into a column of black smoke in the same area where almost 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded on the 4th of August. Other images captured the vortex of smoke that looks like a tornado, soaring high in the sky before spreading across the city where it hangs on a cloud.
It was not immediately clear what caused the fire.
However, the general manager of the Beirut port told the Lebanese broadcasting company that the fire broke out in the building of a company that imports frying. It then spread to flat tires, he said.
The governor of Beirut told residents to evacuate the streets and warned live on LBC that by staying they were putting their lives in danger and endangering fire trucks.
Meanwhile, efforts to extinguish the fire were underway and army helicopters would be involved, a Lebanese army spokesman said. The photos showed firefighters fighting the fire.
Reports of the fire began circulating on social media shortly after 13:00 local time (6 a.m. ET). Three hours later, the Director General of Civil Defense, Brig. General Raymond Khattar told LBC that the fire had been contained, but it still took time to put it out.
The people of Beirut remain on the sidelines after the huge explosion killed 191 people and 6,000 others were injured. It was considered one of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded.
A video circulated on social media appeared to show port workers running as the fire raged behind them. The voices of “let’s go, let’s go” in Arabic can be heard.
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The event is likely to evoke painful memories of last month’s outbreak for those working in the port, as well as for emergency correspondents. Ten firefighters were killed in the August blast.
Michel El Meouchi, 39, less than a mile from the fire, told NBC News that what appeared to be ash was falling from the sky.
The face mask he wore to protect himself from the coronavirus acted as a shield against debris, he said.
“The sky is dark over us,” he said by telephone from the city.
El Meouchi said one problem now in emergencies was that it was difficult to know who or what to trust.
“When you lose confidence in the government, you know what we can do?” he said.
Lebanon was already rocked by the weight of a spiraling economic crisis when last month’s blast devastated central Beirut, killing dozens and leaving thousands homeless.
Following the blast, public outrage erupted once again, sparking the collapse of a government that many have blamed for years of mismanagement and corruption that is widely believed to have allowed the blast to take place.
Najat Saliba, Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry, warned the elderly and children in Beirut to protect themselves as much as possible from the smoke or even to leave the city.
Matthew Milligan contributed.