Massive blast rips through Beirut, killing 78 and injuring thousands (VIDEO) (UPDATE)

Massive blast rips through Beirut, killing 78 and injuring thousands (VIDEO) (UPDATE)

A huge blast in port warehouses near central Beirut storing highly explosive material killed 78 people, injured nearly 4,000 and sent shockwaves that shattered windows, smashed masonry and shook the ground across the Lebanese capital, Trend reports citing Reuters.

Officials said they 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 in years to hit Beirut, which is already reeling from an economic crisis and a surge in coronavirus infections.

President Michel Aoun said that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate had been stored for six years at the port without safety measures and said it was “unacceptable”.

He called for an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday and said a two-week state of emergency should be declared.

“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.

A security source said victims were taken for treatment outside the city because Beirut hospitals were packed with wounded. Ambulances from the north and south of the country and the Bekaa valley to the east 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.

Others sought their missing loved ones in the overflowing hospitals. One medic said 200 to 300 people had been admitted to a single emergency department. “I’ve never seen this. It was horrible,” the medic, who gave her name as Rouba, told Reuters.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab told the nation there would be accountability for the deadly blast at the “dangerous warehouse”.

“Those responsible will pay the price,” he said in a televised address to the nation, adding that details would be made public.

The U.S. embassy in Beirut warned residents in the city about reports of toxic gases released by the blast, urging people to stay indoors and wear masks if available.

02:43 (GMT+4) The death toll in the massive blast that shook Beirut has reached 73, Health Minister Hamad Hassan said, Trend reports citing CNN.

The minister said earlier today that at least 2,750 had been injured in the explosion.

01:05 (GMT+4) Twin explosions rocked the Lebanese capital, Beirut, on Tuesday, killing at least 70 people, Trend reports citing Gulf News.

Preliminary investigations, said an official, indicate that highly explosive materials stored in ward 12 were the cause of the blasts.

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab has called on brotherly and friendly countries to help his country. Those responsible for Beirut 'catastrophe' must be held to account, he added. "The warehouse in which the explosion occurred is dangerous and has been in existence for 6 years," said Diab.

23:44 (GMT+4) Lebanese health minister says at least 50 people were killed and 2,700 injured in the Beirut explosion, Trend reports citing The San Diego Union-Tribune.

21:20 (GMT+4) A huge explosion near the centre of Beirut killed at least 10 people and sending shockwaves across the Lebanese capital, shattering glass in people’s homes and causing apartment balconies to collapse, witnesses and security sources said, Trend reports citing Reuters.

The blast occurred in the city’s port area, where there were warehouses housing explosives, Lebanon’s state news agency NNA and two security sources said. A third security source said there were chemicals stored in the area.

Footage of the blast shared around by residents on social media showed a column of smoke rising from the port district followed by an enormous blast. Those who filming what initially appeared to be a big blaze were thrown backwards by the shock.

At least 10 bodies were taken to hospitals, a security source and a medical source told Reuters.

It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze that set off the blast or what kind of explosives were in the warehouses. The governor of Beirut port told Sky News that a team of firefighters at the scene had "disappeared" after the explosion.

"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," said a Reuters witness.

The health minister told Reuters there was a "very high number" of injured. Al Mayadeen TV said hundreds were wounded.

Another Reuters witness said she saw heavy grey smoke near the port area and then heard an explosion and saw flames of fire and black smoke: "All the downtown area windows are smashed and there are wounded people walking around. It is total chaos."

U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters it was not immediately clear what the cause was, and that there was no indication of any injuries to any U.N. personnel.

"We do not have information about what has happened precisely, what has caused this, whether it’s accidental or manmade act," he said.

The U.S. Pentagon said: "We are aware of the explosion and are concerned for the potential loss of life due to such a massive explosion."

In Cyprus, an island lying west of Lebanon, residents reported two large bangs in quick succession. One resident of the capital Nicosia said his house shook, rattling shutters.

20:56 (GMT+4) A large explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, injuring many people as glass shattered and balconies collapsed from the impact, Reuters witnesses said, Trend reports.

Lebanon’s state news agency NNA and two security sources said the blast had occurred in the port area where there are warehouses housing explosives. It was not immediately clear what caused the blast or what kind of explosives were in the warehouses.

"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," said a Reuters witness.

Local broadcaster LBC quoted the health minister as saying there was a "very high number" of injures and a large amount of damage. Al Mayadeen television said hundreds were wounded.

Another Reuters witness said she saw heavy grey smoke near the port area and then heard an explosion and saw flames of fire and black smoke: "All the downtown area windows are smashed and there are wounded people walking around. It is total chaos."

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