World Bank: Lebanon blast caused damage up to $4.6 billion

BEIRUT (AP) — The massive explosion in Beirut earlier this month that killed and injured thousands of people has caused up to $4.6 billion in physical damage, the World Bank said in a report released Monday.

The Aug. 4 blast was caused by the explosion of nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at the Port of Beirut since 2014. The blast killed 190 people, injured more than 6,000, left nearly 300,000 people homeless, destroyed much of the port and damaged entire neighborhoods.

The blast was the most destructive single incident in Lebanon’s history with thousands of buildings, including residential homes, hospitals, schools and museums suffering considerable damage.

“This tragedy comes at a terrible time as Lebanon battles deep economic and social crises, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the report prepared by the World Bank in cooperation with the United Nations and European Union.

Lebanon is mired in the country’s worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history. It defaulted on paying back its debt for the first time ever in March. Lebanon’s debt stands at about 170% of GDP.

The World Bank said the overall damage incurred as a result of the explosion is in the range of $3.8 billion and $4.6 billion. It added that in the social sectors, housing and culture are the most affected, enduring substantial damage totaling between $1.9 billion and $2.3 billion and $1 billion and $1.2 billion, respectively.

The World Bank also estimated economic activity losses to range between $2.9 billion and 3.5 billion. The public sector reconstruction and recovery needs for 2020-2021 are estimated in the range of $1.8 billion and $2.2 billion, with $760 million needed before the end of the year.

The report added that international aid and private investment will be essential for comprehensive recovery and reconstruction.

The governor of Beirut, Marwan Abboud, earlier estimated the losses caused by the blast to stand between $10 billion and $15 billion.

Also on Monday, Judge Fadi Sawwan, who is leading the investigation into the port blast, issued two arrest warrants against the director of maritime transport at the Ministry of Transportation and a senior port official, state-run National News agency reported.

The new arrest warrants bring the total number of people detained in the case to 21, most of them port or customs officials.