Diesel tank explosion rocks Beirut weeks after port blast, 4 dead

A diesel tank exploded inside a building in Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, on Friday night, killing four people and injuring several others, the Lebanese Red Cross has said.

The explosion injured more than 30 people. Images showed flames in a street and sounds of people screaming in panic.

Lebanese Red Cross head Georges Kettaneh said the injured were transported to hospital.

It was not immediately clear what triggered the blast in the western neighbourhood of Tariq Jadidah. The state-run National News Agency said the fire is likely to have erupted inside a bakery in the basement of the building, which may have caused the tank to explode.

Firefighters put out the blaze and helped residents stuck in their apartments to climb down ladders.

In the last few weeks, Beirut municipality has been looking for warehouses that could be in breach of the law or pose a danger to residential areas, Governor Marwan Aboud said.

“We feared such an accident could happen,” Aboud said, adding that nearly 100 vulnerable sites had been identified. “We have ordered some of them to close and required others to put in place procedures to protect the public.”

The explosion came two months after a massive blast at Beirut’s port killed nearly 200 people, injured about 6,500 others and caused damage worth billions of dollars.

Nearly 3,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical used in fertilisers, exploded at the port on August 4. The material had been stored at the facility for six years.

It is still not known what ignited the nitrate but more than two dozen people, many of them port and customs officials, have been arrested since.