More than 100 people are dead and thousands are injured after a massive explosion shook Lebanon’s capital Beirut on Tuesday, officials said.
A massive explosion shook Beirut on Tuesday, killing at least 100 people and injuring thousands of others while flattening much of the port, damaging buildings across the capital, and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky.
Ammonium nitrate, which Lebanese authorities have said was the cause of the Beirut blast, is an odourless crystalline substance commonly used as a fertilizer that has been the cause of numerous industrial explosions over the decades.
Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, used in fertilisers and bombs, had been stored for six years at the port without safety measures, and said it was “unacceptable”, news agency Reuters reported.
“I will not rest until we find the person responsible for what happened so we can hold them to account and impose the most severe punishment,” the prime minister was quoted as saying by an official Twitter account.
“It is unacceptable that a shipment of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate has been present for six years in a warehouse, without taking preventive measures and endangering the safety of citizens”.
Shocked Beirut City Governor Marwan Aboud said his city was in the midst of a “national disaster akin to Hiroshima’’.
The blast tore down buildings, flattened houses, ripped balconies from apartments, tossed cars from the nearby motorway, and sent a huge plume of smoke billowing across the city.
“It was a real horror show. I haven’t seen anything like that since the days of the (civil) war,” said Marwan Ramadan, who was about 550 yards from the port and was knocked off his feet by the force of the explosion.
The blasts at the port – most powerful explosion in years in Beirut – were heard throughout the small country and as far away as Nicosia on the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 240 kilometres (150 miles) away, news agency AFP reported.
U.S. President Donald Trump offered his “deepest sympathies” to the people of Beirut. “Our prayers go out to all the victims and their families,” he said.
“The United States stands ready to assist Lebanon. We have a very good relationship with the people of Lebanon and we will be there to help.”
Trump added that the incident “looks like a terrible attack.”
When asked later about his depiction of the explosion, Trump said that he had spoken with U.S. military officials who think the blast seemed to be an attack, “a bomb of some kind.”
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has tweeted that he is “shocked and saddened” by the explosion in Beirut, adding: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families and the injured.”