A small explosion coming from Beirut port was followed by a much larger one, per The New York Times. The government does know that there are tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a depot underneath, but as to who sparked it, causing the massive Beirut explosion is yet to be figured out.
Just after 6 p.m. local time, teams of firefighters responded to the scene after an initial fire broke out.
CBS News reports that the local TV stations talked about a fireworks warehouse being involved. The fire spreading reportedly caused a massive explosion.
A separate report from The New York Times confers that the said fire “sent a plume of smoke” hanging over the skyline of the capital. The red and orange smoke was seen after a “much larger explosion” happened from a nearby building.
The first explosion had cars turned over and shook buildings. The second one—recorded at 6:08 p.m. local time—caused thousands of glass from building windows to shatter from miles away from the blast site.
Injured residents walking on the streets of the Beirut explosion aftermath told France 24 that they initially saw a fire coming from the port. A man who was reportedly fishing spoke of fire, and before he knew it, another explosion happened.
There hasn’t been any official finding as to what caused this tragedy, but reports confirm that there is an estimated 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a depot at the site of the blast.
Accordingly, this cache of ammonium nitrate was said to be confiscated six years ago, in 2014, from a cargo ship, as confirmed by Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi, per CBS News.
The subsequent blast happened in central Beirut, but it was felt by people as far away as Cyprus, as it had the force of a 3.3 magnitude earthquake, based on reports.
As of this writing, there are at least 78 people reported dead, and 4,000 people are injured. The New York Times confirms that among the deceased is Nizar Najarian, The secretary-general of the Kataeb political party, who was killed by the blast.
The chairman of the state-owned electricity company, Kamal Hayek, is said to be in critical condition after getting severely injured from the tragedy.
In addition, at least ten firefighters are reported missing, per CNN.
CBS highlights that “terrorism has not been ruled out.” Investigations are to be put in place to track the people responsible for these massive explosions.
Although Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim has already warned everyone about getting “ahead of the investigation.” Nevertheless, Lebanon Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, says:
“What happened today will not come to pass without accountability. Those responsible will pay a price for this catastrophe. This is a promise to the martyrs and wounded people. This is a national commitment.”
The number of fatalities and injured individuals continue to rise as responders still try to recover victims of the blast, as of this writing.
Featured image courtesy of rashid khreiss/Unsplash
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