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Massive blast rips through Beirut, killing 50 and injuring thousands

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Massive blast rips through Beirut, killing 50 and injuring thousands

By Samia Nakhoul and Yara Abi Nader

 

2020-08-04T181048Z_1_LYNXNPEG731FA_RTROPTP_4_LEBANON-SECURITY-BLAST.JPG

Smoke rises after an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon August 4, 2020, in this picture obtained from a social media video. Karim Sokhn/Instagram/Ksokhn + Thebikekitchenbeirut/via REUTERS

 

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A huge explosion in port warehouses near central Beirut killed more than 50 people, injured over 2,750 and sent shockwaves that shattered windows, smashed masonry and shook the ground across the Lebanese capital.

 

Location of the blast: chart.png

 

Officials expected the death toll to rise further after Tuesday's blast as emergency workers dug through rubble to rescue people and remove the dead. It was the most powerful explosion to hit Beirut in years.

 

Lebanon's interior minister said initial information indicated highly explosive material, seized years ago, that had been stored at the port had blown up. Israel, which has fought several wars with Lebanon, denied any role and offered help.

 

"What we are witnessing is a huge catastrophe," the head of Lebanon's Red Cross George Kettani told broadcaster Mayadeen. "There are victims and casualties everywhere."

 

Hours after the blast, which struck shortly after 6 p.m. (1500 GMT), a fire still blazed in the port district, casting an orange glow across the night sky as helicopters hovered and ambulance sirens sounded across the capital.

 

2020-08-04T181048Z_1_LYNXNPEG731F7_RTROPTP_4_LEBANON-SECURITY-BLAST.JPG

Smoke rises from the site of an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon August 4, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

 

A security source said victims were taken for treatment outside the city because Beirut hospitals were packed with wounded. Red Cross ambulances from the north and south of the country and the eastern Bekaa valley were called in to help.

 

The blast was so big that some residents in the city, where memories of heavy shelling during the 1975 to 1990 civil war live on, thought an earthquake had struck. Dazed, weeping and wounded people walked through streets searching for relatives.

 

"I promise you that this catastrophe will not pass without accountability," Prime Minister Hassan Diab told the nation.

 

"Those responsible will pay the price," he said in his televised address, adding that details about the "dangerous warehouse" would be made public.

The interior minister told Al Jadeed TV that ammonium nitrate had been stored at the port since 2014.

 

The center of Lebanon's capital has been hit by an explosion and shockwave that has left the city in chaos. The cause is not immediately clear, but the health minister says there is a "very high number" of injuries. Emer McCarthy reports.

 

SMOKE AND FIREBALL

Footage of the explosion shared by residents on social media showed a column of smoke rising from the port followed by an enormous blast, sending a white cloud and fireball into the sky. Those filming the incident from high buildings 2 km (one mile) from the port were thrown backwards by the shock.

It was not immediately clear what caused the initial blaze on Tuesday that set off the blast.

 

Lebanon's health minister said more than 50 people had been killed and more than 2,750 injured. Lebanon's Red Cross said hundreds of people had been taken to hospitals.

 

Lebanese security and medical sources have told Reuters that at least 10 people are killed in the Beirut port explosion, although Lebanon's health minister has suggested the number may be much higher.

 

The governor of Beirut port told Sky News that a team of firefighters, who were battling the initial blaze, had "disappeared" after the explosion.

President Michel Aoun called for an emergency meeting of the Supreme Defence Council. Prime Minister Diab called for a day of mourning on Wednesday.

 

TANGLED WRECKAGE

The explosion occurred three days before a U.N.-backed court is due to deliver a verdict in the trial of four suspects from the Shi'ite group Hezbollah over a 2005 bombing which killed former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and 21 others.

 

Hariri was killed by a huge truck bomb on the same waterfront, about 2 km (about one mile) from the port.

 

Internal Security Chief Abbas Ibrahim, touring the port area, said he would not pre-empt investigations.

 

Israeli officials said Israel had nothing to do with the blast and said their country was ready to give humanitarian and medical assistance to Lebanon. Shi'ite Muslim Iran, the main backer of Hezbollah, also offered support, as did Tehran's regional rival Saudi Arabia, a leading Sunni Muslim power.

 

A large explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, injuring many people as glass shattered and balconies collapsed from the impact, Reuters witnesses said.

 

Western countries including the United States, Britain and France also said they were ready to assist.

 

Images showed port buildings reduced to tangled masonry, devastating the main entry point to a country that relies on food imports to feed its population of more than 6 million.

 

It threatens a new humanitarian crisis in a nation that hosts hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and which is already grappling with economic meltdown under one of the world's biggest debt burdens.

 

Residents said glass was broken in neighbourhoods on Beirut's Mediterranean coast to suburbs several kms (miles) away. In Cyprus, a Mediterranean island 110 miles (180 km) across the sea from Beirut, residents heard the blast. One resident in Nicosia said his house and window shutters shook.

 

(Reporting by Samia Nakhoul, Yara Abi Nader and Laila Bassam in Beirut; Additional reporting by Dubai, Beirut and Cairo bureaus; Writing by Dominic Evans and Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Edmund Blair)

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2020-08-05
 

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just what our species needs right now. *sigh*

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The Lebanese Minister of Health announced tonight  that 78 people were killed and about 4,000 were injured in the massive explosion that took place last night in central Beirut. Following the number of casualties and heavy destruction, countries around the world have offered humanitarian aid to Lebanon. Among the countries that offered aid are Israel and Iran .

"We are witnessing a tremendous catastrophe," said the head of the Lebanese Red Cross. "There are wounded and dead everywhere - on streets and in areas close to the explosion and far from it." It is estimated that the death toll will rise as emergency crews search for survivors in the rubble. The Lebanese health minister said authorities were having difficulty finding missing persons at night as there was no electricity.

 

According to some Lebanese television channels, the disaster began with an explosion at a warehouse in a port in Beirut, where fireworks were apparently stored. The fire that broke out in the same warehouse spread to nearby warehouses. In one of them were stored tons of ammonium nitrate, a substance used as fertilizer in the agriculture industry - and sometimes also for making improvised explosive devices.

According to a senior Lebanese security official, the warehouse contained about 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate. When the fire reached the warehouse, a huge explosion occurred, in which the fire crews who arrived at the scene after the first explosion were also injured. Beirut Governor Marwan Aboud said firefighters sent to the area "disappeared" after the second blast.

 

The imitating ammonium, which was confiscated from a ship that arrived at the port, was stored for a long time in the warehouse and was not transferred from it despite the fear that it was dangerous. In a statement, Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the materials had been in the same warehouse since 2014, and that those responsible for the default would pay a heavy price. Diab added that he will soon reveal more details, but at the moment he does not want to harm the investigation.

U.S. President Donald Trump, on the other hand, said "it looks like a horrific attack." , U.S. military officials. "It seems to be based on an explosion," Trump noted. "I met some of our generals and they think it's not just an explosion. It was an attack. It seems to be using some kind of bomb."

 

From Ynet.co.il

 

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There is an alternative possibility. If it was terrorism, the perpetrators could have set off the first smaller explosion to attract as many people as possible, then set off the massive ammonium nitrate to kill and maim as many as possible. Al-Qaeda was famous for two stage explosions.

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1 hour ago, rabas said:

There is an alternative possibility. If it was terrorism, the perpetrators could have set off the first smaller explosion to attract as many people as possible, then set off the massive ammonium nitrate to kill and maim as many as possible. Al-Qaeda was famous for two stage explosions.

Always a possibility, looking at Peterw42 post number 13 there was definitely a smaller fire or explosion before the main one.

Condolences to the people of Lebanon, among whom I have several friends who I have found to be a gentle peace loving group.

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