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Iraq says chemical materials will be removed from Basra ports to avoid Beirut-like disaster

The Iraqi ministry of transport granted the General Company for Ports of Iraq (GCPI) 72 hours to conduct a wide inspection in all of Basra province’s ports and remove all inflammable chemical materials stored in warehouses, just days after a deadly blast rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut.

“Yesterday, the Minister of Transport, Nasir Hussein Al-Shibly, ordered the General Company for Ports of Iraq to provide the Ministry with a detailed and accurate inspection of all materials and containers in the warehouse or at the port campus within a period of 72 hours,” reads a statement published by the Iraqi transport ministry on Thursday.

The inspection will focus on identifying chemical, radioactive or combustible materials that are explosive or may lead to the ignition of a fire, according to the statement. All that is found will be removed from the city.

This comes after a twin blast rocked the Lebanese capital Beirut on Tuesday, killing at least 150 people, and wounding around 5,000 others, according to Lebanon’s health minister Hamad Hassan. The numbers are expected to rise as debris is cleared across the city.

President Michel Aoun attributed the blast to 2,750 tonnes of highly explosive ammonium nitrate stored at the city’s port since 2013, prompting angry reactions from civilians already frustrated with the political establishment.

At least 300,000 have been left homeless, according to Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud, who said at least half the city has been damaged.

The explosion in Beirut has jolted Iraqis to the streets and their social media platforms demanding for the removal of explosive materials from neighborhoods inside the country’s populated cities.

Iraqis fear that if warehouses and weapons depots in highly dense civilian neighborhoods are not removed and relocated to areas far from the cities, an Iraqi city could meet the same fate as Beirut.

Last year, a weapons depot inside Al-Saqr military base in southern Baghdad’s Dora neighborhood that belongs to the Iraqi federal police units, as well as a contingent of Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF, also known as Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic) caught fire and resulted in explosives and mortar shells shooting into the sky.

The blast damaged homes in the area and forced residents to rush into the streets. One person died, and 29 others were injured. Source