With the country already struggling with a terrible economy and the Covid-19 outbreak, a huge explosion hit Beirut on Tuesday, killing about 70 people, injured 3,000 and damaging buildings across the city. A huge mushroom cloud could be seen in the sky after the blast.
“This is a great national disaster,” said Prime Minister Hassan Diab.
Videos of the explosion went viral on social media after locals noticed a fire at an industrial port in Lebanon’s capital.
“The fire led to major explosions which reverberated in the capital and the suburbs,” The National News Agency reported.
Hours later, the wounded were still carried away by ambulances as army helicopters helped rage battle fires at the port. Beirut hospitals were quickly filled beyond capacity, pleading for supplies of blood and generators to keep their lights on.
Chief of Lebanese General Security, Abbas Ibrahim said the explosion might have been caused by highly explosive material that was confiscated from a ship some time ago and stored at the port. Local television channel LBC said the material was 2,750 tons (2,494,758 kilograms) of sodium nitrate.
An Israeli government official said Israel “had nothing to do” with the blast. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss the matter with the media. Israeli officials usually do not comment on “foreign reports.”
Even for a city that has seen civil war, suicide bombings and Israel bombing, the blast was devastating. More than 200 kilometers across the Mediterranean, it could be heard and felt as far away as Cyprus which is about 234 kilometres away from Beirut.
Beirut’s Associated Press bureau reported locals’ responses who were nearby the explosion.
“It was a real horror show. I haven’t seen anything like that since the days of the (civil) war,” Marwan Ramadan, a civilian who was knocked off his feet by the force of the explosion 500 meters told AP.
They also reported one woman covered in blood from the waist up walked down a trashed street while talking furiously on her phone.