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UN warns of waste released by Beirut blast By Agency

The U.N. Development Program warns a lot of toxic waste, potentially dangerous to health and the environment, was discharged when 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded at the port of Lebanon’s capital Beirut nearly two weeks ago.

U.N. officials say they do not know the magnitude of the problem and are assessing the types of debris — bricks, steel, glass — unleashed by the blast.

Rekha Das is U.N. Development Program crisis adviser. Speaking on a video link from Beirut, she says hazardous waste, medical waste and electronic waste also must be taken into account.

“We have to find out what is dangerous and what is not dangerous, what can be recycled and what cannot be recycled,” said Das. “And, if it cannot be recycled, then where can it be safely disposed. Lebanon already had a huge solid waste crisis before the blast. The blast has added another massive long-term dimension to this crisis.”

Drone footage filmed Thursday, August 13, shows countless destroyed buildings, hundreds of shattered windows and a still-smoldering Beirut port.

In addition to the waste and contamination on land, Das says work is going ahead to assess the environmental impact of the blast on the Mediterranean Sea. She tells VOA, the U.N. is collaborating with the European Union and experts on toxic and general waste to evaluate the situation.

She says this mission is not easy to accomplish because of the difficulty and risks involved in accessing the sites.

“There is still bricks and roofing that falls down from roofs and windowpanes,” said Das. “So, we have to be careful ourselves when going in and careful — you know, protect the engineers that we are working — the syndicate of engineers, our EU colleagues and everybody has to take this step by step.”

Das says the magnitude of the problem is particularly great because waste management issues existed and were neglected in the country well before the explosion blew away much of what had been Lebanon’s beautiful capital, Beirut, by the sea.

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