Al Jazeera speaks to witnesses and survivors in immediate aftermath of massive explosion that shook Lebanon’s capital.
Lebanese authorities have said at least 78 people have been killed and some 4,000 wounded in a massive explosion at the port in the capital, Beirut.
The explosion on Tuesday sent shockwaves across the city, causing widespread damage even on the outskirts of the capital.
The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear. Officials linked the explosion to some 2,700 tonnes of confiscated ammonium nitrate that were being stored in a warehouse at the port for six years.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun assembled the country’s High Defence Council following the explosion.
Here are the latest updates:
The death toll from the massive blast at a port warehouses near central Beirut has risen to 78, with over 4,000 wounded.
Officials said they expected the death toll to rise further after Tuesday’s blast as emergency workers dug through rubble to rescue people and remove the dead.
President Michel Aoun called for an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday and said a two-week state of emergency should be declared.
US President Donald Trump said the huge explosion that shook Beirut appeared to be a “terrible attack.”
“We have a very good relationship with the people of Lebanon and we will be there to help. It looks like a terrible attack,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“I’ve met with some of our great generals and they just seem to feel that this was not some kind of manufacturing explosion type of an event … They seem to think it was an attack. It was a bomb of some kind.”
The US president, however, did not present any evidence to back his claim.
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said one of its ships docked at the port was damaged in the explosion, leaving a number of its personnel wounded, including some in critical condition.
UNIFIL said it was transporting the wounded peacekeepers to the nearest hospitals and was assessing the situation, including the scale of the impact on its personnel.
“We are with the people and the Government of Lebanon during this difficult time and stand ready to help and provide any assistance and support,” Major General Del Col, UNIFIL head of mission and force commander, said in a statement.
Some pictures from inside Beirut's mangled port today. pic.twitter.com/ccf3drv3QX
— Timour Azhari (@timourazhari) August 4, 2020
The US embassy in Beirut warned residents in the capital about reports of toxic gases released by the explosion, urging people to stay indoors and wear masks if available.
Lebanon’s High Defence Council, which brings together the president and all major security agencies,declared Beirut a disaster-stricken city.
#Lebanon President called urgent meeting of national defence council, which declared Beirut disaster zone, while PM Diab declared Wednesday day of mourning.”What happened will not pass without accountability," said Diab.”Those responsible for this catastrophe will pay the price."
— Zeina Khodr (@ZeinakhodrAljaz) August 4, 2020
After the council meeting at the Baabda presidential palace, which was also attended by Prime Minister Hassan Diab, the following was announced:
– An investigation committee has been tasked to say who was responsible for the blast within five days.
– The families of victims will be paid compensation.
– Import traffic will be routed to the Tripoli port in northern Lebanon.
At least 60 of the wounded people were in critical condition, according to the Red Cross.
The organisation said it had also set up triage and first aid stations to help people with non-critical injuries.
Lives lost – homes destroyed – a tired and hungry population – Aid agencies reported 500,000 children going hungry in Beirut area alone – and then this … #Beirut – months ago people asked for a new leadership they faced a militarized state https://t.co/0Xfnv3HDah
— Zeina Khodr (@ZeinakhodrAljaz) August 4, 2020
Aoun said that it is “unacceptable” that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate were stored in a warehouse for six years without safety measures, according to statements published on the presidency’s Twitter account.
Aoun also pledged that those responsible would face the “harshest punishments” and said a two-week state of emergency should be declared.
General Security Chief Abbas Ibrahim said some 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate were in Beirut’s port on the way to Africa when they exploded.
Ibrahim made the comments after the meeting of Lebanon’s Higher Defence Council.
According to Lebanon’s health ministry, the death toll has risen to 73, with 3,700 wounded.
Confusing, devastating, disastrous: these were some of the words people in and around Beirut used to describe the huge explosion that ripped through the Lebanese capital.
The explosion at Beirut’s port was felt across the city and beyond, causing widespread damage and spreading panic.
Al Jazeera spoke to survivors and witnesses in the immediate aftermath of the explosion. Read about what they had to say here.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has spoken with his Lebanese counterpart, Michel Aoun, and said Turkey is ready to provide humanitarian aid as needed, the presidency has said.
Qatar has promised to send field hospitals to support the medical response.
During a phone call with Aoun, Qatar’s ruler Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani offered his condolences and wished “a speedy recovery for the injured”, Qatar News Agency reported.
Read more international reaction here.
France is in the process of sending aid to Lebanon, President Emmanuel Macron has said.
“France is side by side with Lebanon. Always,” Macron tweeted. “French aid and resources are currently on their way.”
Macron’s office said he has also called Aoun to express France’s support for the Lebanese people.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement has said all of the country’s political powers must overcome the “painful catastrophe” and unite.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry has said that it is following with great concern the consequences of Beirut’s port explosion, according to the state news agency.
The statement also affirmed the kingdom’s full support and solidarity with the Lebanese people.
In televised remarks, Lebanon’s Health Minister Hamad Hassan has said the death toll has risen to more than 50 people killed and more than 2,700 have been wounded.
Hassan said that they had contacted the World Health Organization (WHO) to bring in an aid plane.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab has said that those responsible for an explosion at a “dangerous” warehouse in Beirut port area that rocked the capital would pay the price.
“I promise you that this catastrophe will not pass without accountability… Those responsible will pay the price,” he said in a televised speech.
“Facts about this dangerous warehouse that has been there since 2014 will be announced and I will not preempt the investigations.”
Read more here.
Israel says it has offered humanitarian aid to Lebanon via foreign channels, as the two countries have no diplomatic relations.
“Under the direction of Minister of Defence Benny Gantz and Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabi Ashkenazi, Israel approached Lebanon through international defence and diplomatic channels to offer the Lebanese
government medical humanitarian aid,” the two said in a joint statement.
At the port Al Jazeera’s Timour Azhari spoke to Vincenco Orlandini, 69, a crew member of an Italian civilian ship, the Orient Queen, that was docked near the blast site.
He was covered in blood after the explosion threw him across a room of his ship, while several people on board were wounded and taken to hospital, Azhari said.
“I heard the blast and I flew to the opposite [side] of the lobby. I landed on the carpet and I’m lucky; I think that saved me. The ship is totally destroyed – the cabins, the lounge, everything,” Orlandini said.
A civil defense worker who has worked in the sector for 20 years was in disbelief at the scale of the damage.
“I’ve seen the assasinations and the explosions but this is something else. There is something wrong here,” he told Al Jazeera.
Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi says the massive explosion in Beirut “was an accident caused by a
fire. I suggest caution with speculation – I do not see any reason not to believe the reports from Beirut”.
He made the comments to Israel’s Channel 12.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the UK is ready to provide any support it could to help Beirut.
“The pictures and videos from Beirut tonight are shocking,” Johnson wrote on Twitter. “All of my thoughts and prayers are with those caught up in this terrible incident.
“The UK is ready to provide support in any way we can, including to those British nationals affected.”
The pictures and videos from Beirut tonight are shocking. All of my thoughts and prayers are with those caught up in this terrible incident. The UK is ready to provide support in any way we can, including to those British nationals affected.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) August 4, 2020
Lebanese Health Minister Hamad Hassan says more than 25 people have been killed and more than 2,500 are wounded.
“It is a disaster in every sense of the word,” Hassan said in an interview with several television channels while visiting a hospital in the Lebanese capital.
Iran is ready to help Lebanon in any way necessary, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has tweeted.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the great and resilient people of Lebanon. As always, Iran is fully prepared to render assistance in any way necessary. Stay strong, Lebanon,” Zarif tweeted.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the great and resilient people of Lebanon.
As always, Iran is fully prepared to render assistance in any way necessary.
Stay strong, Lebanon.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) August 4, 2020
The Lebanese Red Cross says that more than 2,200 people have been injured and that the numbers are likely to rise, local broadcasters have reported.
Among the dead is the Secretary General of the Lebanese Kataeb Party, the party has announced.
The headquarters of the Kataeb Party, one of the oldest parties in the country, is located right next to the port.
Local television quoted hospital sources as saying some 400 to 500 people have been wounded, and that all of the hospitals in the capital are overwhelmed as people are brought in.
Dozens of people are trying to enter a hospital in Beirut and are being turned away, Al Jazeera’s Timour Azhari said.
“People are discussing about which hospital they can get to across the city. This hospital, the Hotel-Dieu hospital has formally announced that people should stop coming here.”
“There are corridors lined with wounded, bloody people,” Azhari said.
“There are people crying. The hospital itself has sustained damage; its ceiling looks very precarious, it looks like it’s going to fall apart.”
Lebanese President Michel Aoun has called for an emergency meeting of the country’s Supreme Defence Council, according to the presidency’s Twitter account.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab has called for a day of mourning on Wednesday.
The Lebanese interior minister has said that ammonium nitrate was stored in the port, which is what caused the explosion, local media reported.
He said Lebanese customs should be asked about why it was there.
Lebanon-based broadcaster Mayadeen cited the country’s customs director saying tonnes of nitrate exploded.
A massive explosion has rocked Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, causing many casualties, damaging buildings and shattering windows.
The blast, which flattened much of the capital’s port, was felt across the city as a giant mushroom cloud rose above it.
View the photo gallery here.
Al Jazeera’s Timour Azhari reaching the Beirut port shortly after the explosion, said the site looks like a “wasteland” with debris seen everywhere.
“Cars [from the ground] were thrown three floors up onto roofs of factories here,” Azhari said.
“Rescue services have not been able to reach the actual site of the explosion yet because fires are still raging. Helicopters are circling the area trying to extinguish the fire.
“It really was an incredible explosion. People here are saying that they have never seen anything like it.
Even on the way here the roads were covered in glass,” Azhari said.
Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr reporting from Beirut said the head of General Security, General Abbas Ibrahim, visited the site of the explosion and said it appears the explosion was caused by highly explosive material that was stored in a warehouse.
According to Ibrahim, the explosive material was confiscated years ago.
“We are at the entrance of Beirut’s port, you can see behind me the chaos. Ambulances continue to arrive, continue to evacuate the casualties,” Khodr said.
“So far, according to security sources, at least 10 people have been killed, but we are expecting that number to rise because we understand from the health minister as well as the Lebanese Red Cross that there has been hundreds of injuries.
“Ambulances have been called from across the country to help in the rescue effort. It was a massive explosion; you can see the fire trucks arriving at the scene trying to put out the flame.”
Israel has nothing to do with a huge explosion at the Beirut port area, an Israeli official has said.
“Israel has nothing to do with the incident,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told Israeli N12 television news that the explosion was most likely an accident caused by a fire.
At least 10 bodies have been taken to hospitals following the explosion in Beirut’s port area, a Lebanese security source and a medical source has told Reuters News Agency.
Hundreds of people have been wounded in a huge explosion that ripped through Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, Hamad Hassan, the country’s health minister, told Al Jazeera.