100 dead, over 4,000 wounded in Beirut blasts
BEIRUT (Reuters/AFP) – The death toll from the Beirut port blast surged past 100 with over 4,000 injured, the Lebanese Red Cross said on Wednesday.
“Until now over 4,000 people have been injured and over 100 have lost their lives. Our teams are still conducting search and rescue operations in the surrounding areas,” a statement said.
Rescuers worked through the night into Wednesday after the two enormous explosions ripped through Beirut’s port as they wrecked buildings across the Lebanese capital.
The second blast sent an enormous orange fireball into the sky, immediately followed by a tornado-like shockwave that flattened the port and shattered windows across the city.
The explosions — which were heard in Nicosia, 240 kilometres (150 miles) away in Cyprus — were logged by seismologists, registering as the equivalent of a 3.3-magnitude earthquake.
Bloodied, dazed and wounded people stumbled among the debris, glass shards and burning buildings in central Beirut.
Around 4,000 people were hurt by the blasts, with injuries recorded right across the city.
The most powerful explosion to hit Beirut in years shook the ground, leaving some residents thinking an earthquake had struck. Dazed and weeping, some of them wounded, people walked through streets checking to see if relatives were hurt.
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 by residents on social media showed a column of smoke rising from the port district followed by an enormous blast. Those filming what initially appeared to be a big blaze were thrown backwards by the shock of the explosion.
— Mohammad Hijazi (@mhijazi) August 4, 2020
At least 10 bodies were taken to hospitals, a security source and a medical source told Reuters. The Lebanese Red Cross said hundreds of people were taken hospitals for treatment.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun called for an emergency meeting of the country’s Supreme Defence Council, according to the presidency’s Twitter account.
الرئيس عون دعا المجلس الاعلى للدفاع الى اجتماع طارئ مساء اليوم في قصر بعبدا
— Lebanese Presidency (@LBpresidency) August 4, 2020
The meeting was set to be held “at the Baabda Palace”, or Qantari Palace, the president’s official residence, the tweet read.
It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze that set off the blast or what kind of explosives were in the warehouses.
Lebanon’s Internal Security Chief Abbas Ibrahim, touring the port area, said he would not preempt investigations. An Israeli official said Israel had nothing to do with the blast.
The governor of Beirut port told Sky News that a team of firefighters at the scene had “disappeared” after the explosion.
— Jasmine El-Gamal (@jasmineelgamal) August 4, 2020
Stunning video shows explosions just minutes ago at Beirut port pic.twitter.com/ZjltF0VcTr
— Borzou Daragahi 🖊🗒 (@borzou) August 4, 2020
“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 and black smoke: “All the downtown area windows are smashed and there are wounded people walking around. It is total chaos.”
UN spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters it was not immediately clear what the cause was and that there was no indication of any injuries to any UN personnel. “We do not have information about what has happened precisely, what has caused this, whether it’s accidental or manmade act,” he said.
In a statement on the Beirut explosion, the Pentagon says: “We are aware of the explosion and are concerned for the potential loss of life due to such a massive explosion.”
— Idrees Ali (@idreesali114) August 4, 2020
The 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.