Dozens killed in explosion as fuel shortage grips Lebanon

·3-min read

Following a deadly fuel tanker explosion in Lebanon, people have been forced to join long lines to fuel up, while local hospitals are on the brink of collapse.

On August 15, in the northern city of Tleil, 33 people were killed while nearly 80 people were injured, Al Jazeera reported.

Military and security sources said the army had seized a fuel storage tank hidden by black marketeers and was handing out gasoline to residents when the explosion occurred early on Sunday, Reuters reported.

Before the explosion, Lebanon was suffering a severe shortage of fuel, forcing people to waiting in long lines at gas stations and live with extended blackouts.

At least 30 people were killed and nearly 80 others injured when a fuel tank exploded in Lebanon's northern region of Akkar. Source: AFP via Getty Images
At least 30 people were killed and nearly 80 others injured when a fuel tank exploded in Lebanon's northern region of Akkar. Source: AFP via Getty Images

Videos shared to Twitter show how dire the fuel situation was in the lead up to the devastating explosion, with long queues of cars seen packed into petrol stations.

On August 13, Reuters reported the fuel crisis had reached a "painful crunch point", as bakeries, businesses and hospitals either scaled back operations or completely shut down.

"As the fuel oil that powers Lebanon has disappeared from the market, Lebanese have sweltered at home in the summer heat without light or AC, routinely tossing out the contents of fridges while having to set aside hours to fill up the car - if increasingly scarce gasoline can be found," Reuters reported.

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Many people in Lebanon have reportedly said the conditions they are currently living in are worse than those of the civil war which spanned from 1975 to 1990.

The financial crisis in Lebanon erupted in late 2019, following decades of corruptions and mismanagement from the ruling elite.

More than half of Lebanon's population is living in poverty.

The explosion comes just days after the one-year anniversary of the Beirut Port explosion.

Explosion victims airlifted abroad

At the time of the explosion in Tleil, eyewitnesses claim there were about 200 people nearby and army and security forces personnel were among the casualties.

Accounts of what caused the explosion vary, one witness claimed a person ignited a lighter, causing the explosion, while one source claimed gunfire was the cause.

"There was a rush of people, and arguments between some of them led to gunfire which hit the tank of gasoline and so it exploded," one security source told Reuters.

Abdelrahman was in line to get gasoline when the tanker exploded. He is now at Tripoli's al-Salam hospital, covered in gauze.

People line up outside of a gas station to fill their vehicles in Tripoli, Lebanon
Lebanese people queue outside of a gas station to fill their vehicles amidst a deepening economic crisis sparking various shortages of basic staples in the country. Source: Getty Images

"There were hundreds gathered there, right next to the tank, and God only knows what happened to them," he said.

Another man who is at the hospital says his two sons had not been located, as teams with Red Cross search the site.

Al Jazeera reported hospitals in Lebanon have been struggling for two years now, the explosion has only put more strain on the health system.

Turkey has transported four wounded victims for treatment in Ankara, while Lebanon's health ministry has reached out to other countries for help.

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