Huge fire erupts in Beirut port a month after massive blast

A large fire broke out in Beirut’s port Thursday, blanketing the skies of the Lebanese capital with thick black smoke and renewing fears of the cataclysmic explosion that devastated large swaths of the city last month.

Raging flames engulfed a warehouse in the duty-free area of the port. The warehouse, according to a statement by the Lebanese army, contained oil and tires. The cause is as yet not clear.

Beirut governor Marwan Abboud called on residents to stay away from the port’s environs and not obstruct the work of fire crews.

On Aug. 4, a stockpile of 2,755 tons of ammonium nitrate — a fertilizer which turns explosive when mixed with accelerants— detonated inside the port, killing nearly 200 people, injuring thousands and leaving hundreds of thousands without a home.

On social media, terrified residents shared videos of a column of smoke billowing over already-devastated neighborhoods. One video showed port workers running away from the blaze for fear of a repeat of last month’s blast.

For many other Beirutis, the fire also brought back unwelcome memories of the Aug. 4 explosion. An hour after the fire in the port began, traffic was snarled as panicked drivers sought to get away, even as others lined the highway near the port to get a closer view.

Trucks, ambulances and fire crews raced to the scene to combat the fire. A helicopter dipped a large bucket into the sea and dropped the water on the flames.