Mon | Jan 18, 2021

Ship owner 1st to sue over Beirut port explosion

Published:Friday | August 7, 2020 | 2:56 PM
The port area lies in devastation following this week's massive explosion in the port of Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, August 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

BEIRUT (AP) —  Lebanon’s state-run National News agency says a Lebanese businessman whose cruise ship was destroyed in the Beirut port explosion and who had some staff members killed and wounded has filed a lawsuit against those who will be found responsible for this week’s blast.

Orient Queen owner Merhi Abou Merhi on Friday became the first person to sue over the Tuesday explosion that killed at least 154 people, wounded more than 5,000 and damaged wide parts of the Lebanese capital.

Two Orient Queen employees, a Syrian and an Ethiopian, were killed and seven others were wounded in the blast.

The news agency quoted Abu Merhi as saying there should be a “fair, quick and transparent investigation” and that the state should compensate people for losses to help the country’s already suffering economy.

Meanwhile, the state news agency says the chief of the customs department has been questioned by a judge over this week’s deadly blast, after which the judge placed him under arrest.

The agency says investigative Judge Ghassan Khoury decided Badri Daher should remain in custody after questioning him for five hours on Friday. Sixteen other port officials and staffers are also under arrest.

It gave no further details about the arrest, three days after large amounts of ammonium nitrate exploded at Beirut’s port.

Daher told The Associated Press on Thursday that he and his predecessor sent six letters, the last of which was in 2017, to a judge, warning repeatedly that the huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate stored in the port was a danger. They had asked judicial officials for a ruling on a way to remove it.

Daher said it was his duty to “alert” authorities of the dangers but that is the most he could do.

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