| 4 March 2024, Monday |

Two months to establish cause of Beirut explosion: lead investigator

The cause of the blast that rocked the Port of Beirut needs two more months to be established, the lead investigator into the probe said on Thursday, days after receiving fresh evidence from a French report.

Speaking at a meeting with journalists at the Justice Palace, Judge Tarek Bitar said he needed two more months to verify the cause of the explosion to which there are 3 potential theories.

“The first is the possibility of a mistake in the welding process that led to the start of a fire, which caused the blast; the second is that an intentional fire was caused which led to the disaster; and the third theory is that the explosion was caused by a targeted air rocket attack.”

On August 4, 2020, a large explosion, caused by improperly stored ammonium nitrate, occurred at the Port of Beirut, killing at least 200 people, injuring more than 6,000 and rendering 300,000 others homeless.

Large sections of the port and its infrastructure were destroyed, including most of Beirut’s grain reserves, and billions of dollars in damages were inflicted across the city.

The judge also noted that the new French report into the blast, handed to him on Monday, and which was conducted three weeks after the mishap by French experts, has led to one of the theories being “80%” discounted, but he did not reveal which.

“Work is underway to finalize between the remaining 2 theories,” he added.

Commenting on the likelihood of a targeted air attack as a theory, Bitar said the matter is being thoroughly investigated.

“This theory is based on 3 factors: The first is the testimony of witnesses and whether they saw warplanes or a missile fall, the second is access to satellites, and the third is soil analysis to see whether there were any traces of gunpowder or other explosive material.”

  • Sawt Beirut International