Many dead, over 2500 people injured as explosion rocks Lebanon

Two enormous explosions rocked Beirut’s port on Tuesday, killing at least 27 people and wounding thousands, shaking distant buildings and leaving the Lebanese capital in fear and chaos.

The deafening second blast sent an enormous orange fireball into the sky, flattened the harbourside and sent a tornado-like shockwave ripping through the city, shattering windows kilometres away.

Bloodied casualties stumbled among debris and burning buildings across central Beirut as Health Minister Hamad Hassan reported an initial estimated toll of 27 dead and 2,500 injured, calling it “a disaster in every sense of the word”.

A soldier at the port told AFP: “It’s a catastrophe inside. There are corpses on the ground.”

Relatives of people who worked inside the blast zone gathered at a security cordon as they scrambled for news of their loved ones.

“Ambulances are still lifting the dead,” the soldier said.

The blasts were heard as far away as Nicosia on the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 240 kilometres (150 miles) away.

Makrouhie Yerganian, a retired schoolteacher in her mid-70s who has lived near the port for decades, said it was “like an atomic bomb”.

“I’ve experienced everything, but nothing like this before,” even during the country’s 1975-1990 civil war, she said.

“All the buildings around here have collapsed. I’m walking through glass and debris everywhere, in the dark.”

The country’s Red Cross reported “hundreds of wounded” and called for urgent blood donations.

The cause of the explosions was not immediately known but Lebanon’s Interior Minister, Mohammed Fahmi said explosion in Beirut was caused by ammonium nitrate. He said the chemical was stored in a warehouse at the port. More than 50 people were feared dead, with nearly 3,000 injured.

Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, disclosed that the warehouse had been the subject of warnings since 2014.

Diab assured that he would “reveal facts” about the facility soon.

“I promise you this catastrophe will not pass without accountability. The people who are responsible will pay a price,” Diab said.

The PM declared Wednesday a national day of mourning for the victims of the explosion.

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