Opinion: The circumstances which led to the accident in Beirut bear a terrifying similarity to the situation in Haifa, since our politicians will never let the financial interests take the backseat to public safety and remove the chemical industry from Israel’s largest seaport

The horrendous images of the explosion at Beirut’s port, especially the enormous mushroom cloud enveloping Lebanon’s capital all as it slowly rises, should terrify many around the globe.

For the residents of the city of Haifa- where Israel’s largest seaport is located – these sights represent a nightmare that one day might actually come to live. There is hardly a single person living in Haifa, whose body did not tremble at the sight of the footage emerging from Lebanon.

לבנון ביירות פיצוץ אסון נמל
Beirut’s port after the blast (Photo: Getty Images)


The word ammonia is the single most terrifying word for the residents of the cities of Haifa, the Krayot, Neshser and the town of Kiryat Tiv’on, which is connected to Haifa’s port.

These municipalities, however, are not the only ones facing an immediate threat by the chemicals stored in the seaport.

Specialists say that any defect in the ammonia tank – which housed 12 thousand tonnes of the colourless gas at the heart of Haifa Port only three years ago – would have sent shockwaves from the Upper Galilee and all the way to southern Israel.

אונייה נמל חיפה
The Port of Haifa (Photo: Geodonors)


Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of people who would have died in the initial explosion in addition to the widespread damage to buildings and infrastructures. Israel would have found itself dealing with an event the magnitude of which has never been seen in this country.

The fight to remove the tank lasted 14 years, going through all imaginable judicial bodies and processes until it reached the Supreme Court. It was an emotional, legal battle.

While the residents wanted the tank removed, the employees at Haifa Chemicals factory were livid. They felt the fight to remove the tank was meant to harm their livelihood. Many have yet to forgive the former mayor of the city, Yoni Yahav, and the various environmental organization for their part in the legal battle.

Fires raging in the aftermath of the blast in Beirut
Fires raging in the aftermath of the blast in Beirut (Photo: TNS)


Despite the success of that legal battle, it is still clear to everyone the enormous and dangerous ammonia container at the heart of the port was nothing compared to volatile and harmful substances housed there by various chemical factories.

A State Comptroller report said the port houses no less than 800 different kinds of dangerous chemical substances, including bromine, ammonia, toluene and benzene.

According to the report, the most dangerous locations in the Bay of Haifa are two fuel farms located in Kiryat Tiv’on and Kiryat Haim (a neighborhood in Haifa), the area where ammonia is now stored, the chemical storage facility being built inside the bay, and the gas farm in the city of Kiryat Ata.

The aftermath of the blast
The aftermath of the blast (Photo: EPA)


Over the years, the residents of these municipalities have heard nothing but empty promises from politicians and environmental ministers, including a plan to transform the polluted area of the port into residential zone, which has been subject to ridicule and heavy criticism.

According to the plan, starting 2025, chemical factories will be evacuated from the port and by 2030 the authorities intend to build residential neighborhoods in the same area.
The resident, however, are not convinced wary of the promises made by the government (not to mention the mistrust among the politicians themselves).

And so, if anyone truly believes that in 10 years’ time the chemical industry will leave the port and in its place will be established a blossoming residential area with financial interests taking the backseat to public safety, please raise your hand!

As reported by Ynetnews