Beirut explosions aggravate Lebanon's economic woes
The seismic blasts which rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut have delivered another calamitous blow to a country already in the throes of an unprecedented economic crisis.
Two huge explosions rocked Port of Beirut on Tuesday at around 6:10 p.m. local time (1610 GMT), leaving at least 135 people dead and thousands more injured.
According to local media, Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud estimated on Wednesday that the explosions cost the city 3 billion to 5 billion U.S. dollars in property losses, worsening the city and the country's suffering amid a government reshuffle and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tony Ramy, president of the Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants in Lebanon, announced on Thursday that material damage to the tourism sector is valued at around 1 billion dollars.
"We have lost our lifetime investments," Ramy tweeted.
Meanwhile, Pierre Ashkar, president of the Syndicate of Hotel Owners in Lebanon, told Xinhua that direct and indirect losses may even be higher than 1 billion dollars.
He explained that direct losses include destruction caused to hotels, while indirect cost is incurred by the inability to pay salaries to employees or to attract tourists to the country, which will definitely impact the tourism sector.
The deadly explosions came as the country was already mired in economic woes, with the economy in freefall for months.
According to a report in July by online independent newspaper Elnashra, the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers estimated that 150,000 Lebanese lost their jobs in 2020 amid the current economic deterioration.
The Lebanese government has so far been incapable of implementing necessary reforms, including a forensic audit which will highlight the sources of money squandered in the country, to unlock international aid from the International Monetary Fund.
This has led to renewed nationwide protests against the government following the easing of anti-coronavirus measures.
While the international community is focusing on the rising number of casualties caused by the explosions, concerns are also growing over their effects on food security, as the blasts had flattened several ports in the capital, including the Port of Beirut, the country's largest, making it harder for Lebanon to import food, fuel and other much-needed supplies.
According to local media reports, Lebanon imports as much as 80 percent of its food needs and relies heavily on imported soft wheat.
The country's major grain silo in the capital was also damaged, and all the wheat stored at the facility has been "contaminated," Lebanon's state-run National News Agency quoted Minister of Economy and Trade Raoul Nehme as saying.