September 28, 2020

Beirut: At least 50 killed and thousands injured after huge explosion in Lebanese capital

August 04, 2020

At least 50 people have been killed and 2,700 more injured in a huge explosion in the Lebanese capital Beirut, according to the country's health minister.

The prime minister has called it a "big catastrophe" and vowed for those responsible to pay the price for what has happened.

George Kettan, head of Lebanon's Red Cross, added there are victims "everywhere - in all the streets and areas near and far" from the blast.

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 200km (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 it might have been caused by highly-explosive material confiscated from a ship some time ago and stored at the port.

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.

Local media also reported one hospital has declared it cannot take any more patients and is appealing for blood donations.

The cause of the blast, which happened just after 6pm local time (3pm GMT), has not officially been confirmed yet.

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.

"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."

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

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK is "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, a government spokesperson added.

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.

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

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