“We’ve complained a lot about this over the years,” said Shehadi, who worked at the port until he emigrated to Canada in March of this year. “Every week, customs officers came to complain, as did state security agents. The military kept telling them they had no other place to put this. Everyone wanted to be the boss, and no one wanted to make a real decision.
In addition, the hangar housed a quantity of fireworks, Shehadi said, which customs confiscated around 2009-10 and which he said he personally saw delivered on a forklift. “There were 30 to 40 nylon bags of fireworks inside warehouse 12,” he said.
“They were on the left side when you entered the door. I used to complain about it. It wasn’t sure. There was also humidity there. It was a disaster that was about to happen. The port workers didn’t put the chemicals there in the first place. This contempt belongs to the government. ”
A second source confirmed the presence of the fireworks display, which was also the subject of media reports in Lebanon on Friday.
The emerging new picture of the circumstances that led to the explosion comes as investigators and the media continue to try to piece together the cause of the fire and subsequent explosion.
The claim that the fireworks were stored in the same warehouse as the ammonium nitrate appears to be confirmed by telephone footage, apparently filmed by a port employee from the roofs of the grain silos that overlooked the headquarters of the biggest explosion – now a 150 meters. -crater width of sea water.
In the brief section of images posted to social media, a long warehouse – parallel to the grain silo and separated by a road – is visible, with smoke billowing from the west side windows and roof.
Geolocation by investigative website Bellingcat and the Guardian and comparison of features strongly suggests that this warehouse is located at the very center of the devastating explosion – locating the initial fire and subsequent explosions in the same storage area. .
As the person on the roof of the silo films the north end of the warehouse from his vantage point, the smoke thickens and then a dozen white flashes can be seen occurring in rapid succession at the interior, unleashing thicker red flames that rapidly spread south before detonating a major explosion in the building within seconds that forces the person filming to take cover.
Shehadi said he spoke to former port colleagues who said workers were trying to repair a door outside Warehouse 12 with a power tool before the explosion. “It was at 5 pm and after 30 minutes they saw smoke. Firefighters came, as did state security. Everyone is dead.
A video posted to social media shows firefighters tackling a small fire in a warehouse that looked like a port building. “I believe this repair work led to this disaster,” Shehadi said.
The Lebanese investigation into the disaster is expected to report to the national cabinet by Sunday. Sixteen people linked to the port including its director general have been placed under house arrest, but personalities including French President Emmanuel Macron have called for an independent international investigation.
The country’s president, Michel Aoun, said the cause of the explosion was still unclear and did not rule out the possibility of an act of hostility. “The cause has not yet been determined,” Aoun said. “There is a possibility of external interference through a rocket, bomb or other act.”
The Lebanese Red Cross estimated that dozens of people could still be buried under the debris of the explosion, mainly port workers who worked in and around the hangar.