An official letter circulating online showed the head of the customs department had warned repeatedly over the years that the huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate stored in the port was a danger

Iran Press/Middle East: Fueling speculation that negligence was to blame for the accident, an official letter circulating online showed the head of the customs department had warned repeatedly over the years that the huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate stored in the port was a danger and had asked judicial officials for a ruling on a way to remove it.

Investigators probing the deadly blast that ripped across Beirut focused Wednesday on possible negligence in the storage of tons of a highly explosive fertilizer in a waterfront warehouse, while the government ordered the house arrest of several port officials.

Badri Daher, the head of the customs department, confirmed to the local LBC TV channel that there were five or six such letters to the judiciary. He said his predecessor also pleaded with the judiciary to issue orders to export the explosive materials “because of how dangerous they are” to the port and staff there, The Associated Press reported.

Daher said it was his duty to “alert” authorities of the dangers but that is the most he could do. “I am not a technical expert.”

President Michael Aoun vowed before a Cabinet meeting that the investigation would be transparent and that those responsible will be punished.

The investigation is focusing on how 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical used in fertilizers, came to be stored at the facility for six years, and why nothing was done about it.

Losses from the blast are estimated to be between $10 billion to $15 billion, Beirut Gov. Marwan Abboud says, adding that nearly 300,000 people are homeless.

Public anger mounted against the ruling system which has ruled the West Asian country for the past six years, mainly Saad Hariri's administration, that is being blamed for the chronic mismanagement and carelessness that led to the disaster.

A warehouse at the Beirut Port caught fire on Tuesday afternoon, triggering a huge explosion.

The Lebanese Red Cross said in a statement that over 150 people were killed and more than 5,000 were injured.

214/216

Read more:

Zarif: We are ready to provide assistance to Lebanon

Lebanon appeals to all countries for help