by IANS |
Beirut, Jan 24 (IANS) The judge investigating the 2020 Port of Beirut blast has resumed work after a 13-month suspension under political pressure.
Upon returning to the office on Monday, Judge Tarek Bitar ordered the release of five detained suspects and announced his plan to press charges against others, reports Xinhua news agency.
The investigation was suspended in December, 2021 after a series of complaints were filed against Bitar, forcing him to halt his probe.
On August 4, 2020, a large amount of ammonium nitrate stored at the port exploded, causing at least 218 deaths, 7,000 injuries, and $15 billion in property damage, as well as leaving an estimated 300,000 people homeless.
A cargo of 2,750 tonnes of the substance (equivalent to around 1.1 kilotons of TNT) had been stored in a warehouse without proper safety measures for the previous six years after having been confiscated by the Lebanese authorities from the abandoned ship MV Rhosus.
The explosion was preceded by a fire in the same warehouse.
The blast was so powerful that it physically shook the whole country of Lebanon.
It was felt in Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, and Israel, as well as parts of Europe, and was heard in Cyprus, more than 240 km away.
It was detected by the US Geological Survey as a seismic event of magnitude 3.3 and is considered one of the most powerful accidental artificial non-nuclear explosions in history.