Beirut the capital city of Lebanon was shaken with a massive explosion that ripped through central Beirut on Tuesday, injuring thousands of people and blowing out windows in buildings across the city.
According to reports, the blasts near Beirut’s port sent up a huge mushroom cloud-shaped shockwave, flipping cars and damaging distant buildings.
The effect of the blast was felt as far as Cyprus, hundreds of miles away, and caused a 3.3 magnitude earthquake in the Lebanese capital.
Health Minister Hamad Hassan reportedly said that at least 73 people were killed in the blast, according to national broadcaster TeleLiban. He told reporters earlier that at least 2,750 people have been wounded.
Meanwhile, there have been conflicting reports on what caused the explosion, which was initially blamed on a major fire at a warehouse for firecrackers near the port, according to NNA. The director of the general security directorate later said the blast was caused by “high explosive materials confiscated years ago,” but did not provide further details. CNN reported.
The Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab has announced An investigation into the explosion. The probe will include “revelations that will be announced about this dangerous warehouse which has been present since 2014,” he said, without providing any additional details.
The lethal blast “will not pass without accountability,” he said in a televised statement, adding that “those responsible will pay for what happened.”
A red cloud hung over the city in the wake of the explosion, which took place just after 6 pm local time (11 am ET), as firefighting teams rushed to the scene to try to put out the fire. Footage from the scene captured the injured staggering through streets in the capital; and ambulances, cars, and military vehicles packed with the wounded. One eyewitness described the scenes as “like an apocalypse.”
At least 10 firefighters are missing, according to the city’s governor Marwan Abboud, who said the scene reminded him of “Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
“In my life, I haven’t seen destruction on this scale,” Abboud said. “This is a national catastrophe.”
The blast comes at a tense time in Lebanon. On Friday an UN-backed panel is expected to issue a verdict on the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, a move many fear will stoke sectarian tensions. The country is also in the midst of an economic meltdown, with ballooning unemployment, a tanking currency, and poverty rates soaring above 50%.
A Beirut resident who was several kilometers away from the site of the blast said her windows had been shattered by the explosion. “What I felt was that it was an earthquake,” Rania Masri told CNN.
“The apartment shook horizontally and all of a sudden it felt like an explosion and the windows and doors burst open. The glass just broke. So many homes were damaged or destroyed.”