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At least 20 people were killed overnight from Saturday to Sunday in a tanker explosion in northern Lebanon. The origin of the blast is unknown and it is not known whether it is linked to the worsening fuel shortage in the country.
At least 20 people were killed during the night of Saturday August 14 to Sunday August 15 by the explosion of a tank truck in Lebanon. A drama that comes when the army is deployed in gas stations due to the fuel shortage.
No details immediately filtered out on the origin of this explosion which occurred in the Akkar region, in the north of the country, according to the Lebanese Red Cross. “Our teams evacuated 20 corpses and more than 7 wounded from the site of a tanker truck explosion in Akkar to hospitals in the region,” she said on Twitter.
At least seven bodies and dozens of burned people were taken to a hospital in Akkar, employee Yassine Metlej said. “But the hospital had to refuse most of the injured because it is not equipped to treat severe burns, he added. Some were taken 25 km away to Al-Salam hospital in Tripoli. , the only one equipped in the region to deal with burn victims.
Videos circulating on social networks, not verified by AFP, showed a fire raging on the site.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri compared the Akkar explosion to the one that ravaged the port of Beirut a year ago, killing more than 200 people and destroying entire swathes of the capital. “The Akkar massacre is no different from the port massacre”, he wrote on Twitter. “If this country respected its people, its leaders would resign, from the president to the very last person responsible for this negligence,” he added.
It is not known whether this new explosion is linked to the worsening fuel shortage in Lebanon, which affects the supply of basic necessities.
Earlier on Saturday, Central Bank Governor Riad Salamé refused to reverse a recent decision to lift fuel subsidies despite the anger and concerns of the Lebanese. “I will not go back on (the decision to) lift fuel subsidies unless the use of mandatory reserves (of currency) is legalized,” he said over a local radio microphone.
“We still have $ 14 billion in (mandatory) reserves, in addition to $ 20 billion in external assets,” he said. The BDL’s foreign exchange reserves exceeded $ 30 billion before the crisis.
The BDL’s reserves have melted as the Lebanese pound has lost more than 90% of its value against the dollar, making import costs more onerous. The greenback is traded today on the black market at more than 20,000 pounds, against an official rate still maintained at 1,507 pounds.
The BDL announced on Wednesday its decision to grant credit lines only at the black market rate for the importation of fuels, causing anger and panic in the country and raising fears of yet another increase in prices and shortages, including of bread.
Several establishments have had to close their doors for lack of diesel to power private generators, while power outages peak at more than 22 hours a day.
The American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC), one of the country’s leading private hospitals, warned of “impending disaster” on Saturday, saying it was forced to cease operations within 48 hours if it does not get fuel . “Forty sick adults and 15 children, on respirators, will die immediately,” warns the AUBMC in a statement. “180 people suffering from renal failure will die of poisoning after a few days (…) Several hundred cancer patients, adults and children, will die in the coming weeks.”
Criticized by several political leaders for the lifting of subsidies, Riad Salamé defended himself on Saturday: “All (…) were aware of the decision. Let them go to Parliament and vote the law instead of playing comedy, “he replied.
The army in gas stations
Endless queues formed outside gas stations on Saturday as fuel delivery trucks were stormed by angry citizens, according to local media. Some gas stations have closed to keep fuel stock pending further price hikes.
According to AFP correspondents, soldiers deployed en masse to gas stations in the early afternoon imposed the opening of several of them north of Beirut and elsewhere.
The army said it had seized more than 78,000 liters of gasoline stored in two service stations as well as 57,000 liters of diesel in a third in the east of the country. She shared images on social media showing soldiers filling vehicle tanks themselves.
The internal security forces (ISF) also claimed to have seized thousands of liters of gasoline and diesel stored in a gas station.
Riad Salamé on Saturday criticized fuel importers and distributors, accused of taking advantage of subsidies and storing large quantities to sell them at a higher price on the black market or in neighboring Syria. “It is unacceptable that we import 820 million dollars of fuel and that there is no diesel, neither gasoline nor electricity” on the local market, he lamented, estimating that this amount should be enough for three months , “not just a month”.