NNA - The Supreme Defense Council, in a special session held at the Presidential Palace, chaired by President Michel Aoun, decided to declare Beirut as a disaster city, and to declare a state of emergency for a period of two weeks from the date of 4/8/2020, and assigned a commission of inquiry to the reasons that led to the explosion disaster that occurred in the port of Beirut and raise the result of its work to the competent judicial references within a maximum period of 5 days, from date, provided that maximum penalties are applied against the responsible.
The Council decided to provide the necessary assistance to the hospital sector, and to instruct the Higher Relief Commission to conduct a survey of the damage and to provide shelter for the families whose homes were damaged.
During the session, President Aoun stressed the need to care for the affected citizens, and to conduct investigations, holding those responsible for what happened. The President also reported receiving a series of contacts from Kings and heads of Arab and foreign countries who expressed their solidarity with Lebanon and their desire to provide necessary assistance. Moreover, the President decided to release the extraordinary appropriation in the 2020 budget of 100 Billion Lebanese Pounds, which is devoted to exceptional and emergency circumstances.
For his part, Prime Minister Dr. Hassan Diab affirmed that he won’t rest until finding the person responsible for what happened, holding him accountable and inflicting the most severe penalties, “Because it is unacceptable that a shipment of Ammonium estimated at 2750 tins, existed for six years in a warehouse, without any preventive measures”.
The defense meeting was held at 9:30pm, and attended by: Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, Deputy Prime Minister, National Defense Minister, Zeina Akar, Foreign and Emigrants Minister, Charbel Wehbe, Interior and Municipalities Minister, Mohammed Fahmy, Finance Minister, Ghazi Wazny, Economy and Trade Minister, Raoul Nehme, Public Works and Transportation Minister, Michel Najjar, Army Commander, General Joseph Aoun, General Director of General Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, Director General of Internal Security Forces, Major General Imad Othman, General Director of State Security, Major General Tony Saliba, Secretary General of the Higher Defense Council, Major General Mahmoud Al-Asmar, Cassation Attorney General, Judge Ghassan Ouweidat, Governmental Deputy Commissioner to the Military Court, Judge Fady Akiki, Beirut Governor, Marwan Abboud, Chairman of the Supreme Council of Customs, Brigadier Assaad Toufaili, Customs Director General, Badri Daher, Beirut Port Chairman, Hassan Kraytem, Director General of Civil Defense, Brigadier Raymond Khattar, Director of Army Intelligence, General Antoine Mansour, Director of the Information Branch in the General Directorate of General Security, Brigadier Manh Sawaya, Head of ISF Information Branch, Brigadier Khaled Hammoud, Assistant Director General of State Security, Brigadier Samir Sannan, Director General of the Lebanese Presidency, Dr. Antoine Choucair, and the President’s Security and Military Adviser, Brigadier Paul Matar.
After the meeting, Major General Al-Asmar read the following statement:
“At the invitation of His Excellency, General Michel Aoun, the Supreme Defense Council convened in an emergency meeting devoted to discuss the huge explosion that occurred in the Port of Beirut, this afternoon. The meeting was attended by: Prime Minister, National Defense Minister, Interior Minister, Finance Minister, Foreign Affairs Minister, Economy and Trade Minister, Public Works Minister, Cassation Attorney General, Leaders of Security and Military services and intelligence apparatuses, Director General of the Presidency, Secretary General of the Supreme Defense Council, head of the Supreme Council of Customs, Director General of Customs, Assistant Commissioner of the Government to the Military Court, Beirut Governor, Chairman of the Beirut Port, Secretary General of the Higher Relief Commission, Director General of Civil Defense, and the Security and Military Adviser of His Excellency the President.
At the beginning, His Excellency asked to stand for a minute of silence in mourning martyrs of the huge explosion, offered his condolences for families, and wished speedy recovery for the wounded, indicating that a major catastrophe occurred in Lebanon, and preliminary information states a large number of martyrs and wounded.
“The purpose of this meeting is to take necessary judicial and security measures, assist citizens, treat patients and preserve public property” the President added pointing to the necessity of investigating what happened and determining responsibilities, especially since security reports stated that there were flammable and explosive materials in the warehouse where the disaster took place.
His Excellency, the President, said that several contacts were received from the Presidents and Kings of Arab and foreign countries to express solidarity with Lebanon in this emerging ordeal, and to provide urgent assistance in various fields.
Then, the Prime Minister condoled martyrs, and wished the wounded a speedy recovery, calling for the formation of an investigation committee to issue results of its investigations within a maximum of 5 days, and to determine responsibilities.
“I, as Prime Minister, will not rest until we find the person responsible for what happened and hold him accountable and impose the most severe penalties because it is unacceptable that a shipment of Ammonium, estimated around 2750 tons, be present for 6 years in a warehouse, without taking preventive measures, in addition to endangering the safety of the people and the population and this is something that cannot be tolerated” PM Diab said. The Prime Minister also stressed the necessity of declaring a state of emergency in Beirut, for a renewable period of two weeks.
After deliberation and discussion of reports prepared by competent agencies on the disaster, the Supreme Defense Council decided to submit the following recommendations to the Council of Ministers:
- Declaring Beirut a disaster city.
- According to Article 3 of the Defense Law No. 102 and Articles 1, 2, 3, and 4 of Legislative Decree No. 52, dated 5/8/1968, declaring a state of emergency in the city of Beirut for two weeks, that is from 4/8/2020 until 18/8/2020. The competent authorities exercise the powers stipulated in Legislative Decree No. 52/1968 and, according to Article 3 of the Decree, the Supreme Military Authority shall immediately assume the authority to maintain security and place all armed forces at its disposal, including the Internal Security Forces, General Security, State Security, Customs, armed forces in ports, airport and in armed guard units, including firefighters. These forces perform their basic duties in accordance with their own laws and under the command of the Supreme Military Command. The Supreme Military Authority also chooses by decision of some elements from the mentioned forces to assign them to special tasks and missions related to security operations, guarding sensitive points and rescue operations.
- Assigning an investigation committee, to uncover the reasons that led to the occurrence of this disaster, provided that the results of the investigations are submitted to the competent judicial authorities within a maximum period of 5 days from its date, provided that the maximum levels of sanctions are taken against the responsible.
- Allocating funds for hospitals to cover the expenses of the wounded.
- Paying necessary compensation to martyrs’ families.
- Supplying wheat quantities, after the damage inflicted on stored quantities in the warehouses.
- Providing the Port of Tripoli to secure commercial operations from import and export.
- Forming a crisis cell to monitor the repercussions of this disaster at all levels.
- Restricting the sale of flour to ovens.
10- Instructing the Higher Relief Commission to survey the damage in coordination with the Lebanese Army.
11- Contacting all countries and their embassies to secure the necessary aid and donations and establishing special funds for this purpose.
12- Instructing the Higher Relief Commission to secure shelter for families whose houses are no longer suitable for living, and to contact the Education Ministry to open schools to receive these families.
13- Establishing a mechanism for importing glass and controlling the prices of materials that are used to repair damages.
His Excellency, the President of the Republic decided to release the exceptional accreditation stipulated in Article 85 of the Constitution and the 2020 year budget, which amounts to 100 Billion Lebanese Pounds and is allocated to exceptional and urgent circumstances.
The Prime Minister also declared national mourning and lockdown for three days. -- Presidency press office