Former Syrian official warns of potential disaster in Tartous Port due to stockpiled dangerous materials

BEIRUT / DARAMSUQ / TEHRAN / CAIRO — In the wake of the Beirut Port explosion, officials across the region are sounding the alarm about stockpiles of dangerous materials in their own countries.

The explosion of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate at the port of Beirut has led to widespread fear among the Lebanese people of the potential presence of other improperly stored dangerous materials which may lead to a similar, or possibly worse, disaster.

In response to the explosion, Patriarch of the Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch Béchara Boutros Raï called on Lebanese authorities to raid the illegal weapons caches scattered throughout residential neighborhoods in the country’s cities and villages to avoid a similar catastrophe.

In Syria, the former head of the Narcotics Directorate in the Ministry of Health, Majida al-Homsi, has warned that dangerous substances were stocked in large quantities inside a long-abandoned warehouse in Tartous Port.

Al-Homsi feared a potential fire in the port, stressing the need to destroy the substances even if doing so posed some risk, reported a Daramsuq (Damascus)-based newspaper.

The Director of Tartous Customs did not clarify the fate of these substances or provide a reason for the delay in destroying them. Instead, he denied the customs’ relation to the issue, indicating that there is a dangerous materials committee in the port specialized and responsible for such issues.

Although the Minister of Transport, Ali Hammoud, recently assured that the Tartous Port is free of any dangerous materials, the recklessness and neglect of Syrian government officials, it cannot be established for certain if the port is safe.

In Iran, Tehran city councilman Majid Farahani posted warnings on his Instagram account in mid-August that the Iranian capital could face a worse fate than the recent events in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, Iranian authorities are moving to relocate an oil depot situated in the middle of a Tehran neighborhood.

About 300 trucks are loaded with fuel every day from oil depot and drive through the residential neighborhood endangering resident, Farahani said.

In Egypt, the government moved to clear the country’s ports of stockpiled dangerous material.

“What happened in Beirut made us examine our own situation and we actually got rid of large quantities of abandoned and neglected and dangerous materials that were in the ports,” Finance Minister Mohamed Mait told parliament.

“There are materials that have been delivered to multiple ministries including oil and defense and interior, and by next December Egyptian ports will be completely cleaned.”