Beirut was just the first. More are coming

9 August, 2020 | newsx bureau

Beirut National

In the wake of the Beirut blasts, a global cooperation has emerged. Humanity has put aside its myriad differences for the time being, and come together to work constructively on aiding Beirut. Whil...

Imagine you’re in your house, nestled snugly in your favorite chair, watching Netflix, texting a friend, reading a book (though that last one seems a tad unlikely). Suddenly, your entire house shakes. You’re worried, and you can’t understand what’s going on. It stops just as suddenly as it started. Being the logical human you are, you open Google, and try to find out if it’s an earthquake. It’s in vain though, the Internet has fails you on this count; there’s no news of an earthquake.

You finally relent, chalking it up to some freak geological occurrence. Alternatively, if you’re actually not, all that logically obsessive a human, you credit divine intervention, and just call it an Act of God.

Then, a short while later, you open up Twitter, and find the answer; an explosion in Beirut, is what caused your house to shake.

That was the experience of one Kevin D. Mckay. He lives in Cyprus. 240 Kilometers away from Beirut.

He’s one of many, who felt this week’s Beirut explosions. All around the globe, world leaders, diplomats, and humanity more generally have come out to express their sorrow, and pledged to aid the people of Beirut in any way possible.

Warms the cockles doesn’t it? It’s a rare moment that creates such sterling bipartisanship. In an extremely polarized (and ever-more polarizing) world, that there are some things we can all come together on, should comfort us.

And it does. The ideological pantomimes of right-left conflicts, the frivolous nature of religious disputes, and the inherent irrelevance of communalist strife, are all clearly put on display by such events.

However, this humanitarian shouldering arms, and our satisfaction to seeing it, hides a deeper truth.

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Beirut was just the first. More are coming.

There are two main explanations possible for the Beirut Blasts. First, a highly unlikely, and as of yet, evidence-free view, that it was a deliberate act of terror. Any number of radical groups exist on which to pin this; Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS; pick your poison. Some have even sought to blame Israel, because picking on the Jews never grows old, apparently.

Now, at the moment, the facts are simply not there to support such a claim.

The facts of the Beirut case, scant as they are, at the moment, are as follows. Explosive materials (ammonium nitrate, to be precise) were stored at a warehouse, near the site of the explosion. A fire breaks out, due to some kind of technological malfunction (or a deliberate act, though there is not enough evidence yet to believe this). This fire causes the first explosion, a smaller one. The second explosion, set off by the first, is much larger, does the real damage.

With over 150 confirmed dead (the death count is still rising exponentially, mind), 5,000 confirmed injured, and a great many as of yet unforeseeable problems the blasts are going to cause, Beirut has been a tragedy.
But we need to focus on why it happened, in the first place.

Even if it was a deliberate act of terror, why did the Beirut government allow such volatile materials to lie around in an unprotected warehouse for years on end? Ultimately, it was a fault of human negligence, and a man-made an industrial accident.

As Indian citizens, we’re all well aware of one such accident; the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. Killing over 16,000 people over time, and affecting over half a million, Bhopal should have served as a warning.

Humans are creating more and more complex technology, and while that means we can utilize it for much greater purposes, it also means there’s more ways for things to go wrong.

And when they go wrong, they go horribly wrong.

In 2017 alone, almost 6,000 deaths were caused worldwide due to man-made natural disasters, which cost approximately $ 5,500 million in damages. According to a study done in the United States, 14 Americans die every day due to an occupation-related hazard, with over 30,000 non-fatal, but debilitating injuries every year. Since 1907, human industrialization has killed over 182,561 people, and caused $ 41 billion in property damages.

None of these statistics even breach the subject of industrialization deaths in developing and third world countries. On May 7th, in India, a toxic gas leak at an LG polymers plant killed 12, and hospitalized hundreds. A boiler explosion at the Neyveli Power Plant injured 8. Poisonous gas inhalation hospitalized 7 in Raigarh, and a fire broke out in a factory in Satpur.

All in the same day.

And this, when India was in the throes of an economic lockdown. An Indian economy operating at full steam, is much more deadly.

Since May, we’ve seen over 75 lives lost in 30 such accidents. These man-made disasters are on the rise, and fast. Just a few days ago, a fire in a Covid-19 facility in Vijayawada killed 11, and injured 30.

I might mention the long term effects of these advances as well (the particulate matter released by the energy industry kills around 4.5 million people every year), but why bother? It’ll only fall on deaf ears.

Unless we take action. Unless we come together to create change. Unless we pledge not to let the lives lost in Beirut, in Bhopal, and in all the other disasters be in vain. Spread this article to your friends and family. Raise awareness. Trade Unions have already begun writing to the Prime Minister warning of this threat. We need to play our part as well.

As of this moment, 740 tonnes of ammonium nitrate lie dormant in a Container Freight Station in Chennai.

This is the new pandemic. We need to fight it.

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