The Guardian view on the Beirut blast: a tragedy within a crisis | Editorial


The world owes solidarity to a people exhausted by decades of corrupt and negligent government

Beirut has come to know the sound of explosions too well in its recent past, but none looked or felt like the blast that laid waste central districts of the city on Tuesday. The devastation is on a scale more usually wrought by earthquakes. The port at the heart of the Lebanese capital was annihilated. Shock waves ripped the facades from every building in neighbouring districts – and behind every shattered window are shattered lives. There are not enough hospital beds or a reliable supply of electricity. Infrastructure for storing and importing many of the city’s essential goods has been destroyed, making scarcity of food an imminent threat. A vast crater at the site of the detonation scars the coastline, but deeper still are the wounds to a nation that was already reeling from economic crisis, debilitated by pandemic and weary from political chaos and corruption.

The explosion appears to have been accidental, a conflagration of chemicals taken from an impounded ship and left in a warehouse for six years, but tragic accidents are not random acts of nature. They have causes that can be investigated, roots in the choices that people have made. Sadly, citizens of Beirut know better than to expect answers. They are familiar with the negligence of a state that has been captured by sectarian interests, running services and utilities as mafia-style racketeering portfolios. A well-regulated port would not have been so vulnerable to industrial accidents of seismic proportions. Authorities in a functional democracy would be scrutinised and held to account.

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