Head of Lebanon customs arrested over Beirut blast

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The head of Lebanon’s customs authority was formally arrested on Monday after being questioned over the massive explosion in Beirut earlier this month, the state-run National News Agency reported.

The investigation is focused on why nearly 3,000 tons of explosive ammonium nitrate was being stored at the city’s port. The ignition of the stockpile caused an explosion that tore through the capital, killing at least 180 people and wounding 6,000, The Associated Press reported.

Thirty people are still missing after the August 4 blast, which caused an estimated $10 billion to $15 billion in damage.

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More than 70,000 workers are believed to be unemployed due to the explosions, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday, on top of 220,000 people estimated to have lost their jobs as a result of the financial crisis that began last October last year and those left jobless by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dujarric said some 40,000 buildings were damaged, with 3,000 residential structures severely damaged, and at least 2,000 doctors were either injured or had their clinics destroyed.

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Documents that surfaced after the blast, the single most destructive in Lebanon’s history, showed that officials have known for years that 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate were stored in a warehouse at the port and knew about the dangers.


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