What is the Port of Beirut? Everything We Know About the Site Following Deadly Explosion

A deadly explosion at the Port of Beirut devastated Lebanon's capital city Tuesday evening, leading to questions surrounding the site that has reportedly been home to highly explosive materials since 2014. Here is what we currently know about the port.

The Port of Beirut was the site of the explosion which killed at least 73 people and wounded over 2,750. It first opened in 1887 and is located on the city's northern Mediterranean coast.

The port has since grown to become one of the largest, busiest ports along the Eastern Mediterranean seaboard, and serves as the main entry point into the country along with the Beirut airport.

The port is owned by the Lebanese government but is currently managed by a temporary committee led by Hassan Koraytem and six other members spanning several religious and political groups.

The Compagnie de Gestion et d'Exploitation du Port de Beyrouth, or the Port Authority of Beiruit, previously held a 30-year-long concession of the port which ended in March 1990. Although the temporary committee remains in charge of the port, its website still has "Gestion et Exploitation du Port de Beyrouth" displayed at the top.

The port has undergone significant expansion since the end of the Lebanese Civil War in 1990 and sees nearly 3,000 ships per year. It spans nearly a half-mile in total area, according to its website.

The port boasts four basins, 16 quays and a general cargo area of 12 warehouses and a grain silo. One warehouse is used at the port to store "hazardous goods," according to its website. The Beirut Naval Base also comprises part of the port.

Beirut Explosion
A helicopter puts out a fire at the scene of an explosion at the port of Lebanon's capital Beirut on August 4, 2020. The Port of Beirut first opened in 1887 and is located along the city’s northern Mediterranean coast and is one of the largest, busiest ports along the Eastern Mediterranean seaboard. STR/AFP/Getty

Lebanese Interior Minister Mohammad Fahmi told Al Jadeed TV on Tuesday following reports of the blast that ammonium nitrate had been stored at the port since 2014.

"Customs' authorities must be asked about the reasons behind storing such chemical materials at Port of Beirut," Fahmi said.

Newsweek contacted Port of Beirut officials for comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab said in a televised statement Tuesday that more information about the site of the blast would be forthcoming.

"Facts about this dangerous warehouse that has been there since 2014 will be announced and I will not preempt the investigations," Diab said.

At around 6 p.m. Tuesday evening, the explosion at the city's downtown port area gave way to a much larger explosion that was felt as far away as Cyprus. Homes up to six miles away from the blast site were damaged, CNN reported.

Lebanon's state-run National News Agency initially reported that a warehouse near the port's wheat silos containing fireworks had caught fire, causing the explosion.

But Major General Abbas Ibrahim, head of Lebanon's general security service, later said that the blast was caused by "high explosive materials" that had previously been confiscated by the government.

It would be "naive to describe such an explosion as due to fireworks," he told Lebanese TV, but warned against assuming the blasts were part of a terrorist attack.