September 28, 2020

Beirut: At least 70 killed and thousands injured after huge explosion in Lebanese capital

August 04, 2020

At least 70 people have been killed and more than 3,000 injured in a huge explosion in the Lebanese capital Beirut.

The head of Lebanon's Red Cross said there were victims "everywhere - in all the streets and areas near and far".

Prime Minister Hassan Diab called Tuesday afternoon's explosion a "big catastrophe" and said those responsible would pay the price.

He said the explosion was caused by more than 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate left unsecured at a warehouse near the city's port for six years.

Video showed the moment a building several storeys high exploded, sending a huge shockwave across the city that was heard and felt as far away as Cyprus - more than 125 miles (200km) away.

Pictures showed devastation, with cars upturned and emergency crews gathered around the gutted building.

Lebanon's internal security chief, Abbas Ibrahim, also said the blast might have been caused by highly explosive material confiscated from a ship and stored at the port.

Local media named the substance as ammonium nitrate.

Earlier reports had suggested the building was a fireworks storage warehouse.

Residents reported collapsed ceilings and shattered windows as far as 2km (1.2 miles) from the incident as a huge column of smoke rose over the city.

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

One hospital said it could not take any more patients and was appealing for blood donations, said local media, as others pleaded for generators to keep their lights on.

Prime Minister 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, said the 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," said Ja'far.

He said there were a lot of "very dazed, very bloodied people" wandering around in shock after the blast.

Fady Roumieh was standing in a car park around 2km east of the blast and said it was "like a nuclear bomb".

"The damage is so widespread and severe all over the city," said the Beirut resident.

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

As night fell, a fire was still active in the port district and ambulance sirens sounded across the city.

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

A small number of staff at the country's embassy in Beirut have been left with non-life threatening injuries and are receiving medical attention, said a government spokesperson.

Israel has said it had "nothing to do with the incident" and humanitarian and medical assistance is being offered as "this is the time to transcend conflict".

The explosion comes as Lebanon experiences its worst economic and financial crisis in decades - and amid rising tensions between Israel and militant Hezbollah group along Lebanon's southern border.

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