The Lebanese Red Cross reported at least 20 people were killed and 79 injured after a fuel tanker explosion in northern Lebanon, in the town of Altalil, in the Akkar region, just north of Lebanon’s largest city, Tripoli, early Sunday morning. Army and security forces personnel were among the casualties. Caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan said the worst cases of burns probably needed quick treatment abroad to save their lives. It’s unclear who owned the tankers or what caused the explosion. Military and security sources said that the Lebanese army had seized a hidden fuel storage tank in the town of Altalil and was in the midst of handing out gasoline to residents when the explosion took place. “There was a rush of people, and arguments between some of them led to gunfire which hit the tank of gasoline and so it exploded,” said a security source.
The country is in a fuel crisis. A compounding economic disaster also has devalued the Lebanese pound by 90 percent since 2019, in addition to the subsidies and has drained the country’s reserve. Previously, the Lebanese Army announced Saturday that it “started raiding gas stations and confiscating the stored quantities of gasoline.” The American University of Beirut Medical Center announced it would be forced to shut down by Monday as the fuel it has rationed to keep the private generators going has run dry. At least 40 adults and 15 children living on respirators would die immediately, the university warned in its statement.