Beirut, Lebanon – At least 63 people have been killed and nearly 3,000 wounded in a powerful explosion that ripped through Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, leaving much of it a wrangled mess.
The massive explosion on Tuesday at Beirut’s port sent shockwaves across the city, causing widespread damage to buildings and shattering windows even on the outskirts of the capital.
The exact cause of the explosion was not immediately clear. Mohammed Fahmi, Lebanon’s interior minister, said it was apparently caused by ammonium nitrate that was stored in a warehouse at the port.
Prime Minsiter Hassan Diab promised that “what happened will not go without accountability”.
Health Minister Hamad Hasan called for international aid to Lebanon, and a number of nations in the West and the Gulf have said they were willing to provide assistance.
Interior minister says explosion at port appears to have been caused by ammonium nitrate stored in warehouse.by Timour Azhari40 minutes ago
The explosion left the port a wasteland; cars hanging from the mangled beams of warehouses, bent containers spread across roadways and a large ship listing onto the quayside. A health worker on the scene reported that he had seen at least 10 people dead near the last site, many left disfigured.
Helicopters circling the port area were trying to extinguish a large fire preventing to get to the epicentre of the blast sight, even hours after it occurred. Sirens filled the air.
Hospitals in the city were overwhelmed with wounded and turning those with non-serious injuries away.
At Hotel-Dieu hospital, itself left damaged by the explosion, dozens of people trying to enter were told to go elsewhere. “It’s a catastrophe, a catastrophe,” a man said in disbelief.
Inside the crowded lobby, a family got the news that their relative was dead. A young woman bent over in anguish, spread her arms open to an infant child and said “Youssef, dad is in heaven.” An old man fell to his knees and smacked the ground, over and over.
Earlier at the port, a man in the all-white uniform of a boat crew, stained with blood, wandered near an Italian ship docked near the explosion site, the Orient Queen. Its interior was blown out, it was sloped sideways onto the quayside.
“The ship is totally destroyed – the cabins, the lounge, everything,” Vincenco Orlandini, the 69-year-old Italian crew member, reported
“I heard the blast and I flew to the opposite of the lobby, then I landed on the carpet and I’m lucky, I think that saved me.”
A civil defence worker who has worked in the sector for 20 years was in disbelief at the scale of the damage.
“I’ve seen the assassinations and the explosions but this is something else. There is something wrong here,” the worker said.
The explosion in Beirut port comes as the country faces an unprecedented financial crisis and a surging coronavirus outbreak.
Located in the heart of capital, the port is a vital piece of infrastructure used to get scarce goods in the country. There explosion damaged grains silos in the port which are a strategic reserve of wheat for the crisis-hit nation.
A picture shows the scene of an explosion near the port in the Lebanese capital Beirut People in a hospital following an explosion in Beirut
An Injured man in a hospital following an explosion in the Lebanese capital.
People ride past a car destroyed after a building wall collapsed.
Here’s what the damage looks like inside Lebanese prime minister’s headquarters
A view of a damaged street and buildings caused by a massive explosion in Beirut’s port.