Residents of Akkar burn landowner’s house, after his fuel tanker causes an explosion that killed 33.

Army raids warehouses and gas stations in search for hidden fuel

The Lebanese army seized 65,000 litres of diesel and 48,000 litres hidden in a warehouse in Zouk Mosbeh, Kesrouan during a raid this morning.

The fuel has since then been distributed to hospitals and bakeries in the area. The army began raiding closed gas stations and warehouses on Saturday to uncover hidden fuel and confiscate stored canisters in a bid to redistribute gas to residents.

The country’s fuel crisis peaked over the weekend, after Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh announced the bank would soon lift subsidies over fuel as it could no longer afford to open lines of credit for importers or subsidize its purchase. 

Several essential businesses, including hospitals, bakeries, supermarkets, and restaurants, have been forced to ration their electricity usage to ensure that they do not run out of fuel. 

The American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC) sent out an urgent call for help from the community and United Nations organizations on Saturday for fuel, saying that its stock would run out by Monday, immediately killing 55 patients living on electricity-powered respirators. AUBMC has since then secured enough fuel to continue running till the end of this week.

Bakeries have had to shut their doors and halt production of bread amidst the fuel shortages. Many flocked to bakeries during dawn Friday to stock up on bread before shelves run out.

All over the country, thousands of cars lined up outside gas stations at all hours of the day to secure fuel for their cars. Several fights broke out over the limited supplies. 

In Akkar, a group known as the “Akkar Revolutionaries” discovered a hidden fuel tanker in a warehouse normally used for storing crushed stones. The tanker contained 60,000 litres of gasoline and 40,000 litres of diesel. People then gathered around the area to fill up gasoline, but were later on dismissed by the army who came to the scene “to deal with matters.”

After the army left the area, more people flocked to the area to gather gasoline, when the explosion occurred at around 2 AM as per the army’s website. So far, 33 people have been killed as a result. Ten people were taken to Geitawi Hospital to be treated for severe burns.

Residents of Akkar burned the landowner’s nearby residence. The army has since then arrested the son of the landowner where the explosion occurred.

Amidst the fuel crisis, the country is also battling the blistering August heat with no air conditioning. Entire families have reportedly slept on their balconies to escape the heat.