At least 80 people were killed in the blast and at least 4,000 wounded, Health Minister Hamad Hassan said in a phone interview Wednesday morning with one of Lebanon’s national television channels. This figure is expected to rise, he said.
“There are many people missing until now. People are asking the emergency department about their loved ones and it is difficult to search at night because there is no electricity. We are facing a real catastrophe and need time to assess the extent of damages,” Hasan said in a Reuters report.
A massive explosion rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Tuesday evening, leaving dozens dead and thousands injured.
The blast has been linked to a large supply of confiscated and potentially unsecured explosive material, stored in a warehouse at the city’s port, close to populated areas. As world leaders and international organizations step in to offer assistance, local officials are also launching an investigation into the blast.
As day breaks in Lebanon, authorities are scrambling to treat the wounded, search for survivors, and assess the full extent of the damage. Here’s what we know so far.
The explosion took place at 6:07 p.m. local time near Beirut’s port and central district, close to many highly-populated areas and tourist sites.
Nearby landmarks include the historic Martyrs’ Square; the Gemmayzeh and Mar Mikhael neighborhoods, fixtures of the Beirut bar scene; the landmark Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque; Grand Serail, the government palace; and Baabda Palace, the official residence of the Lebanese President.
In the immediate aftermath, there were conflicting reports, and it was initially blamed on a major fire at a warehouse for firecrackers near the port.
United States President Donald Trump added to the confusion when he referred to the incident at an “attack,” though US Defense Department officials told CNN afterward there was no indication that was the case. Lebanese officials also raised concerns with US diplomats about the use of the phrase “attack,” two State Department officials said.
Later, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that about 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive material, had been stored at a port warehouse for the past six years “without preventive measures.”
Lebanon’s general security chief said a “highly explosive material” had been confiscated years earlier and stored in the warehouse, which is just a few minutes’ walk from Beirut’s shopping and nightlife districts.
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