At least 25 people were killed and around 2,500 others injured when a powerful explosion rocked Beirut’s port. Buildings were destroyed and windows shattered, with dozens of Red Cross teams racing to the scene.
A massive explosion at a port in the Lebanese capital Beirut killed at least 25 people and injured around 2,500 others on Tuesday, according to Lebanon’s health minister.
It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion.
Windows were shattered and buildings were destroyed in the widespread damage, while smoke was seen billowing across the city. Damage appears to have spread for several kilometers.
The Red Cross said there were at least 2,200 injuries from the explosion, while several eyewitnesses reported that some of the wounded may be buried under rubble.
Beirut’s governor told local TV: “I have never in my life seen a disaster this big.”
“My apartment is completely destroyed,” Joachim Paul of the Heinrich Böll Foundation told DW. “I was in a shopping mall when the explosion happened, and I was under the impression that a bomb had gone off in the mall.”
An eyewitness told Reuters news agency, “I saw a fireball and smoke billowing over Beirut.”
“People were screaming and running, bleeding. Balconies were blown off buildings. Glass in high-rise buildings shattered and fell to the street.”
Many people were seen lying injured on the ground and hospitals put out immediate calls for blood donations, the Associated Press reported. One hospital reported over 500 patients had arrived, bringing them to capacity.
The explosion in Beirut caused widespread damage
Warehouses stored ‘highly explosive materials’
Local TV stations reported that the blast took place at an area where fireworks were sold, while Lebanon’s state news agency NNA quoted security sources as saying that the warehouses may have housed explosives.
Security Chief Abbas Ibrahim confirmed that there were warehouses in the area that stored “highly explosive materials,” without elaborating on whether this referred to weapons or fireworks. Ibrahim said the materials had been “confiscated years ago.”
The Lebanese Red Cross said “hundreds” were injured and tweeted that over 30 teams were responding to the incident.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab declared that Wednesday will be a national day of mourning for the victims of the explosion, according to local media, while President Michel Aoun called an emergency meeting with the National Defense Council.
International community responds
The White House announced that the United States was monitoring the explosion very closely and was ready to “offer all possible assistance.” France and Iran also both announced they would help Lebanon in any way necessary.
After the blast, Israel said it had nothing to do with the explosion. Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told Israeli TV that he believed the explosion was most likely caused by a fire, urging “caution around speculation.”
Tensions have been high between the two neighboring countries after Israel said it thwarted an infiltration attempt by Hezbollah gunmen.
Lebanon is also currently in the grip of a major economic crisis, with many people taking to the streets in recent months to protest the financial situation.
Black smoke billows over destroyed buildings in Lebanon
ed/stb (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
This story has been updated to reflect the latest developments.