A MASSIVE explosion in Lebanon's capital city Beirut has killed at least 135 people and injured nearly 5,000 others.
The enormous blast could be heard some 125 miles away in Cyprus after it erupted in the port area of Beirut. But what exactly happened in Lebanon on Tuesday, August 4, after months of economic chaos?
⚠️ Read our Beirut live blog for the latest news & updates
What happened in Lebanon?
The death toll in Beirut has risen to 135 after a huge explosion ripped through a port area.
Lebanese health minister Hamad Hasan said "I have never in my life seen a disaster this big," as 250,000 people were left homeless.
Pictures showed buildings destroyed, people walking wounded, and a sea of wreckage after the blast that could be heard some 125 miles across the sea in Cyprus.
Nearby buildings around the port have been leveled, windows and doors blown out, and fires continue to burn as smoke plumes billow across the Lebanese capital.
The Government Palace– the home of Lebanon's Prime Minister Hassan Diab – was damaged in the blast, and his wife and daughter were injured.
Officials said the reverberating blast wave occurred in a port area where explosive materials were stored, causing significant damage in multiple blocks.
Some people are believed to still be trapped under the rubble, including in their damaged homes.
Video showed a column of smoke rising from the port area from what appeared to be an initial explosion, followed by a massive blast that sent up a mushroom cloud and a shock wave.
The footage on social media appears to show several small explosions coming from a building before the main blast.
One witness said: "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."
Pictures showing the battered and bloody arriving at hospitals in search of treatment after the carnage as bodies lay strewn on the streets.
Struggling hospitals there have pleaded for blood donations as the wounded stream in, reports said.
An AP photographer near Beirut's port saw people lying wounded on the ground and widespread destruction in central Beirut.
American journalist Ben Wedeman, who was also reporting live from a partially wrecked bureau, said "this was something the likes I’ve never seen before".
What caused the Beirut explosion?
The source of the blast is believed to be 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate which had been stored in a warehouse without safety measures since 2014.
Security sources reportedly claimed a welder had sparked the initial fire that in turn ignited the chemicals – causing a blast the fifth the size of Hiroshima.
Ammonium nitrate is mainly used as a fertilizer but has also been linked to terror attacks after being used in homemade bombs.
Lebanon's internal security chief Abbas Ibrahim has insisted that these were explosive materials rather than military-grade explosives.
Security services there said the carnage may have been caused by a fire in a depot of highly volatile materials seized from a ship a few months ago and stored there.
What did the officials say about blast?
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that those responsible for the explosion at a “dangerous” warehouse in Beirut port area that rocked the capital would pay the price.
He said: “I promise you that this catastrophe will not pass without accountability. Those responsible will pay the price.
“Facts about this dangerous warehouse that has been there since 2014 will be announced and I will not preempt the investigations”.
Beirut's governor Philip Boulos called the explosion a national disaster and compared it to Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear disasters, which killed an estimated 225,000 people.
Fighting back tears as he arrived at the scene of the disaster, Boulos said: "I ask the Lebanese people to pull together."
Health minister Hasan added: "I have never in my life seen a disaster this big."
Al Mayadeen television reported there were hundreds of casualties, and the Lebanese Red Cross have said they are receiving thousands of emergency calls.
Red Cross spokesman Georges Kettaneh said emergency services had been "overwhelmed" and ambulances have been called in from across the country to aid the rescue effort.
An Israeli official said the nation had nothing to do with a huge explosion amid ongoing clashes between the two nations.
Israel's Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told Israeli N12 television news that the explosion was most likely an accident caused by a fire.
How can I help Beirut?
There are a number of ways you can help out the people who have been affected by the devastating explosion.
Activists in Lebanon have been building a crowd-sourced list of additional local groups and resources on Carrd.com, which can be found found here.
The Lebanese Red Cross issued an urgent call for blood donations from all blood types, so if you are or know anyone in Lebanon that is safe and sound, consider a donation to local blood transfusion centres.
On August 4, an Instagram account dedicated finding victims was created; it's been posting images of likely victims that have been separated by their friends and family.
By sharing the posts you could help reunite families and the account can be found here.
A list showing the charities can be also found below:
- Impact Lebanon – donate here
- Embrace Lebanon – donate here
- Lebanese Red Cross – donate here
- Lebanese Food Bank – donate here
Did the Trump administration comment?
White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany told a news briefing on Tuesday that President Trump's administration is tracking the aftermath.
McEnany offered no details about the causes of the blast.
The US State Department said they are ready to offer "all possible assistance" to Lebanon.
The United States Pentagon said: "We are aware of the explosion and are concerned for the potential loss of life due to such a massive explosion."
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The BBC noted that the explosion erupted as a verdict is due in a trial over the killing of ex-PM Rafik Hariri in 2005.
Lebanon is also passing through its worst economic and financial crisis in decades.
It comes amid rising tensions between Israel and the militant Hezbollah group along Lebanon's southern border.
Beirut: Before & After
Where is Beirut?
Beirut is the capital city of Lebanon.
It is Lebanon’s largest city and chief port with a prime location on the Mediterranean coast.
Lebanon shares its borders with Syria to the north and east and Israel to the south, while Cyprus lies west across the Mediterranean Sea.
Lebanon is in the Middle East and has a coastline that is 140 miles long, with Beirut roughly in the middle.
There is an estimated population of 2,424,425 in Beirut.
The population of Lebanon is over 6.8 million.
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