September 23, 2020

Beirut: At least 10 dead after huge explosion in Lebanese capital

August 04, 2020

At least 10 people have been killed in a huge explosion in the Lebanese capital Beirut, officials have said.

The country's health minister Hamad Hasan said there are a "high number of injuries", according to local news station LBC.

It reported the Hotel Dieu hospital is treating more than 500 people but cannot take any more and is appealing for blood donations.

Some residents are still trapped in their homes, the Lebanese Red Cross charity also warned.

Footage posted on social media showed the moment a building several storeys high exploded, sending a vast shockwave across the city that was heard and felt as far away as Cyprus - more than 200 kilometres (180 miles) away.

Pictures also showed a scene of devastation with cars upturned and emergency crews gathered around the gutted building.

The explosion appeared to be centred around the city's port area containing warehouses, and rippled through several areas of the capital.

Lebanon's internal security chief Abbas Ibrahim said it happened in a building containing highly-explosive materials, according to news agency NNA. Earlier reports had suggested the building was a fireworks storage warehouse.

Witnesses said a number of people were injured during the widespread destruction across the city, with residents reporting collapsed ceilings and shattered windows.

A huge column of smoke was seen rising over the city following the explosion.

Wounded people were seen on the ground near Beirut's port, according to a photographer at the scene.

The cause of the blast was not immediately clear.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab has called for a day of mourning on Wednesday.

Sky News' Middle East editor Zein Ja'far, who was in downtown Beirut at the time of the explosion on Tuesday afternoon, said the "huge explosion" caused windows to "cave in".

"It tore apart the facade of the building we're in, and once the dust settled we managed to get ourselves and others in this block outside," he said.

"It was really quite a worrying sight".

"The sounds of sirens of the fire brigade, ambulances, the police and also the military has been pretty incessant for the last 45 minutes and a huge number of emergency services and security forces are rushing to that area now," he said.

"A lot of very dazed, very bloodied people are walking around trying to gather their bearings."

One local, named Fady Roumieh, was stood in a car park of a shopping centre around 2km (1.2 miles) east of the blast.

He said: "[It was] like a nuclear bomb. The damage is so widespread and severe all over the city.

"Some buildings as far as 2km are partially collapsed. It's like a war zone. The damage is extreme. Not one glass window intact."

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK is "ready to offer help and support" to those affected.

Israel's foreign minister said the country had "nothing to do with the incident".

The explosion comes as Lebanon experiences its worst economic and financial crisis in decades.

It also comes amid rising tensions between Israel and the militant Hezbollah group along Lebanon's southern border.

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