A massive explosion has ripped through the Lebanese capital of Beirut, leaving at least 73 people dead and thousands of others injured.
A warehouse at the Beirut Port caught fire on Tuesday afternoon, triggering a huge explosion, Lebanon’s official National News Agency (NNA) reported.
Several smaller explosions were heard before the bigger one occurred.
Abbas Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s General Security, said that “highly explosive materials” confiscated earlier had been stored at the site.
Footage shared on social media captured the moment of the bigger explosion, with a colossal shock wave seen traveling fast across several hundreds of meters and shrouding the area in thick smoke.
Smoke rises after an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on August 4, 2020, in this picture obtained from a social media video. (Karim Sokhn via Reuters)
The blast left enormous material damage to the surrounding buildings and structures. But it was not immediately known how big an area was affected.
Graphic amateur video from the scene showed bodies strewn on the ground, with their clothes blown off.
The NNA said rescue operations were underway. Ambulances were seen heading toward the scene in central Beirut.
Lebanese LBC television channel quoted Lebanon’s Health Minister Hamad Hasan as saying that the blast had caused a “very high number of injuries” and “extensive damage.”
The health ministery in Lebanon later announced that the death toll from the massive explosion in Beirut stood at more than 70, and the number of injured was over 3,700.
Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud said an unspecified number of firefighters dispatched to extinguish the initial fire had been killed in the explosion.
“As they were putting out the fire, the explosion took place and we’ve [lost them],” he said, breaking down on live TV.
The explosion comes at a time when the Arab country is passing through its worst economic and financial crisis in decades, and amid rising tensions with Israel.
Those responsible will ‘pay price’: Prime Minister Hassan Diab
Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab vowed on Tuesday that those responsible for the massive blast in the Beirut Port would be held to account.
“What happened today will not pass without accountability. Those responsible for this catastrophe will pay the price,” Diab said in a televised address.
The Lebanese premier also called for international assistance to help the country, which is already beset by economic crises.
“I am sending an urgent appeal to all countries that are friends and brothers and love Lebanon, to stand by its side and help us treat these deep wounds,” the prime minister said.
Diab also declared Wednesday as the day of national mourning for the victims of the deadly blast in Lebanon.
“It is a sad day, Beirut is afflicted, Lebanon is hit by a catastrophe, yes it is a big national catastrophe, the scenes we are seeing express the tragedy and reflect the size of the disaster that hit Lebanon. Beirut is mourning, and all of Lebanon is facing a catastrophe,” Diab underlined.