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Beirut port blast: an escapable disaster in more than one way

Roula Al Daia (Faculty of Business and Management, University of Balamand, Tripoli, Lebanon)
Hala Khayr Yaacoub (Faculty of Business and Management, University of Balamand, Tripoli, Lebanon)

Publication date: 1 December 2021


Complexity academic level

The blast at Beirut Port on the 4th of August was the cherry on the cake in a series of disastrous governmental failures manifested in the of lack of trust, an unprecedented economic crisis, hyperinflation, financial fallout, political bottle necks, toxic environmental situation and a vertical cleavage between the government and the people. The blast resulted in billions of dollars in losses both at the port and the surrounding Beirut area, destroyed more than 300,000 housing units, displaced their residents, ruined many artifacts of cultural heritage, injured thousands of people and killed hundreds. Definitely, it was a case of negligence in the storage of the Ammonium Nitrate, corruption, irresponsible leadership or all of these together. However, investigations are still underway to pinpoint the responsible individuals and to bring them to justice. This case looks at potential ways that could have prevented the blast, by questioning the reasons behind the non-voicing out of objections against the nature of the material stored unsafely for several years in Container 12 at the Port. Through the lens of Hadi Karim, a fictional character, the authors lead the readers to consider the disaster’s characterization, as well as applicable disaster management frameworks. The case also emphasizes the role of public leadership and leads the readers to consider measures and processes that could have been abided by to prevent the disaster.

Case overview

Against the backdrop of the recent Beirut Port explosion, this case examines how events unfolded leading up to the tragedy, highlighting how it could have been avoided, as well as the managerial and ethical dimensions involved.

Leaning objectives

At the end of the case, students will be able to: 1. Characterize the disaster in terms of type and nature. 2. Analyze the blast by referring to the relevant disaster management frameworks. 3. Analyze the critical role of ethical and transformational leaders pre and post disaster. 4. Reflect on the role of employees in preventing disasters mainly through whistleblowing.

Social implications

Shedding the light on an avoidable disaster, drawing lessons to avoid the occurrence of such events in the future, and raising awareness on disaster management and on whistleblowing as a tool in the ethical leader’s toolbox.

Supplementary materials

Teaching notes are available for educators only.

Subject code

CSS 10: Public Sector Management.



Disclaimer. This case is written solely for educational purposes and is not intended to represent successful or unsuccessful managerial decision-making. The authors may have disguised names; financial and other recognizable information to protect confidentiality.


Al Daia, R. and Khayr Yaacoub, H. (2021), "Beirut port blast: an escapable disaster in more than one way", , Vol. 11 No. 4.



Emerald Publishing Limited Bingley, United Kingdom

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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