Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Ismail Küpeli
Port of Beirut - Sept 2003

People in Lebanon are whispering their worries that a restriction may be placed on the transfer of flour to bakeries beginning Wednesday (Aug. 5) due to the destruction of the silos where the grain was stored at the Port of Beirut.

Rumors to that effect have been making the rounds but there has been no confirmation of the claim – if there will be any flour to be had anywhere.

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The wheat silos were destroyed along with everything else at the port in the massive double explosion that took place early Tuesday evening, razing everything in its path.

Wheat importers also expressed fears the explosions at the port could hurt the country’s shaky food security for a long time, according to a report published by the English-language edition of Al-Arabiya. Only 16.9 percent of the country’s wheat supply is grown locally.

The national silos that were located at the port contained the country’s essential grain reserves, including wheat, corn and barley. Lebanon imports up to 80 percent of its food requirements, including the soft wheat used by its bakeries to make bread. At this point, it is not clear how much wheat is left.

The explosions not only destroyed the silos, but also damaged two vessels that were off-loading wheat at the time of the blast, in addition to port machinery used for discharging goods and operating within the silos.

The shock wave from the explosion was felt up to 10 miles away from the port, according to journalist Habib Battah, who told The New York Times that homes were “shattered for miles.” Damage is massive at a time when the entire country is engaged with a fight against COVID-19, a broken economy, and with hunger generated by both.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab meanwhile declared a state of emergency in Beirut for the next two weeks, saying it was “unacceptable” that a shipment of ammonium nitrate “estimated at 2750 tons has been present for six years in a warehouse without taking any preventive precautions, placing the safety of citizens at risk.”

US President Donald Trump expressed his condolences in a statement Tuesday night, saying, “The United States stands ready to assist Lebanon. We will be there to help. It looks like a terrible attack.”

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