At least 80 people were killed and 4,000 wounded in the massive explosion that shook the Lebanese capital, Beirut, on Tuesday, Lebanon’s health minister said.
Hundreds of people have been hospitalized across the Lebanese capital and many are feared dead in the aftermath of a massive blast that rocked Beirut, shattering glass and damaging buildings miles from the site.
Hospital emergency rooms are being inundated by the injured, with the emergency section of one main hospital – the American University of Beirut Medical Center – unable to receive more patients, partly due to blast damage, according to state media.
The Lebanese Red Cross, health officials and politicians have called on people to donate blood to help the injured in hospital.
Images from the city show cars, ambulances and military vehicles packed with the walking wounded and others who appeared not to be moving.
It’s still unclear what exactly caused the explosion, centered on the city’s port area. It was earlier blamed on a fire that broke out. Lebanon’s Prime Minister said an investigation would focus on an estimated 2,750 metric tons of the explosive ammonium nitrate, stored at a warehouse.
Initial reports in state media blamed the blast on a major fire at a firecrackers warehouse near the port, that likely spread to nearby buildings. However, the Prime Minister’s account appeared to be backed by Lebanon’s General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim, who said a “highly explosive material” had been confiscated years earlier and stored in the warehouse, just minutes’ walk from Beirut’s shopping and nightlife districts.
As Beirut’s 4 million residents wake to the full horror and scale of the damage to their city, lives, and livelihoods, questions are being asked about why such large quantities of the dangerous chemicals were allowed to be stored in the middle of the city without adequate safety measures, and who is responsible.