Lebanon begins investigation into cause of blast


A government-led investigation is underway in Lebanon to probe the cause of the massive explosion that ripped through the capital, Beirut.

The death toll from the explosion which happened in the country’s port area on Tuesday has now risen to at least 137 people with 5,000 others injured.

Officials say the death toll is expected to rise.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab is heading the investigation committee that includes the justice, interior and defence ministers and the head of Lebanon’s top four security agencies.

The committee has been tasked with reporting its findings to Cabinet within four days, and Cabinet, in turn, will refer those findings to the judiciary.

“This morning, a decision was taken to create an investigative committee which in four days maximum must provide a detailed report on responsibility – how, who, what, where? There will be judicial decisions,” Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe told Europe 1 radio.

“It is serious, and we take it seriously,” Wehbe said.

“Those responsible for this horrible crime of negligence will be punished by a committee of judges,” he added.

The government announced on Wednesday that those responsible for guarding and storage at the port would be placed under house arrest.

Lebanon’s cabinet also declared a two-week state of emergency in the capital and handed control of security in the city to the military.

According to Beirut Governor Marwan About, damages from the explosion, which officials have linked to some 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored at the port, may be worth up to $15bn.

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