Sixteen staff members at Beirut’s port, the site of a massive explosion in Lebanon, have been detained over the deadly blast that devastated large parts of the city.
A military prosecutor made this known on Thursday following announcement by Lebanese authorities that an investigation into Tuesday’s explosion have commenced.
Reports say the blast was triggered by a fire from a welding job which ignited 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse at Beirut’s port.
Lebanon’s foreign minister, Charbel Wehbe on Thursday said an investigating committee had been given four days to determine responsibility for the blast, which killed more than 130 people and wounded at least 5,000.
Speaking, Military prosecutor Fadi Akiki in a statement stated 18 staffers at Beirut’s port had been called in for questioning, 16 of whom remain in custody pending further investigations.
Akiki noted that the officials include port and customs officials as well as maintenance workers and their managers.
His statement comes as an official confirmed to AFP that the central bank had ordered an asset freeze for seven port and customs officials, including Badri Daher, director-general of Lebanon’s customs authority.
The official spoke on the condition of anonimity because he is not authorised to speak on the issue.
A banking source confirmed to the publication that all the country’s commercial banks recieved the order, which also lifts banking secrecy from accounts owned or linked to those in question.
Even as they counted their dead and cleared streets of debris, many Lebanese are enraged and protesting over the blast which they describe as the expression of the country’s leadership incompetence.
Many have raised questions as to how such a huge cargo of highly explosive material could have been left unsecured for years.
Echoing demands widely supported in Lebanon, French President Emmanuel Macron, who visited the country on Thursday, also called for an international enquiry and independent probe.