Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, was rocked by a major explosion on Tuesday, and the damage done to the city is said to be very widespread. Authorities are still investigating the blast, but it is known that it originated in a warehouse near the city's port. That facility was reportedly being used to store explosive materials.
According to CBS News, there were actually two separate explosions that took place, sending a mushroom cloud of smoke and ash up into the air. A military member who was at the port, but asked to have their identity withheld, told AFP: "It's a catastrophe inside. There are corpses on the ground. Ambulances are still lifting the dead." Abbas Ibrahim, Lebanon's chief of General Security, stated that the blasts might have been caused by highly explosive material. These were said to have been confiscated from a ship some time ago. LBC, a local television channel in Beirut, claimed that the material was sodium nitrate, but that is unconfirmed by officials at this time. Scroll down to read more about all we know of the Beirut blast at this time.
Source of the Explosion
The explosion in Beirut is known to have happened in a warehouse at the city's port. However, beyond that, there appear to be varying reports on what the original source was. Initially, there were reports that a fire caused the explosion, but there was no word on what caused the fire. More recently, authorities have said that explosive materials caused the explosion, but did not say what would have caused said materials to ignite.prevnext
The first reports out of Beirut indicated that the number of known dead was around 10. The death toll has continued to climb, and CBS News is now reporting that it is at 50. The number of those injured in the blast are much higher. At this time, roughly 3,000 people are reported to have been hurt by the blast.prevnext
Hadi Nasrallah was an eyewitness to the terrible scene, and while speaking to the BBC she shared her story. "I saw the fire, but I didn't yet know there was going to be an explosion. We went inside. Suddenly I lost my hearing because apparently I was too close. I lost my hearing for a few seconds, I knew something was wrong. And then suddenly the glass just shattered all over the car, the cars around us, the shops, the stores, the buildings. Just glass going down from all over the building.
Nasrallah added, "Literally all over Beirut, people were calling each other from different areas kilometres away and they were experiencing the same thing: broken glass, buildings shaking, a loud explosion. Actually we were shocked because usually when it happens, just one area will experience those happenings after an explosion, but this time it was all of Beirut, even areas outside of Beirut."prevnext
Eyewitness Accounts (cont)
Beirut resident Rania Masri was quoted by CNN as describing the blast by saying that it felt like an earthquake. "The apartment shook horizontally and all of a sudden it felt like an explosion and the windows and doors burst open," Marsi said. "The glass just broke. So many homes were damaged or destroyed."prevnext
Reports have said that hospitals in Beirut and the surrounding areas are overflowing with people were injured in the blast. One doctor told the press, "This is a catastrophe we have on our hands." He asked to have his identity withheld due to not being authorized to make statements to journalists.prevnext
In the wake of the blast, President Michel Aoun has called for the defence council to begin "urgent" talks. Additionally, Prime Minister Hasan Diab has declared Wednesday to be a day of mourning for the lives lost and injured.
Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud was speaking to a journalist about the terrible destruction, and while he was explaining what he'd seen, he began to grow emotional. "It looks like what happened in Japan, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki," he said. "That's what it reminds me of. I have never seen destruction on this scale in my life."prevnext
The White House has said that President Trump had been briefed on the incident and the U.S. State Department released a statement saying it was "closely following" the situation. "We extend our deepest condolences to all those affected, and stand ready to offer all possible assistance," a statement from the White House read. "We are working closely with local authorities to determine if any U.S. citizens were affected."prev