Rescue work is being carried out and search operations are going on in Central Beirut to look for survivors as more than a hundred people are currently missing after a giant explosion rattled the port area of the capital on Tuesday. The death toll has now jumped to at least 100 and over 4,000 people lost are reported to be injured. The whole city was devastated by the huge explosion which followed a mushroom could that spread across the port area.
President Michel Aoun said 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely in a warehouse triggered the blast. The chemical is used as a fertilizer in agriculture and as an explosive used in mining industry. President Aoun announced 3 days of mourning staring on Wednesday. Chairing an emergency cabinet meeting, he said: “No words can describe the horror that has hit Beirut last night, turning it into a disaster-stricken city”.
“Amid last night’s smoke, flames and destruction, I would like to laud the zeal of the Lebanese who rushed to the blast location and perimeter and the hospitals to offer support and assistance,” he added.
Eyewitness Hadi Nasrallah says that he witnessed a small fire but did not expect the blast. “I lost my hearing for a few seconds, I knew something was wrong, and then suddenly the glass just shattered all over the car, the cars around us, the shops, the stores, the buildings. Just glass going down from all over the building,” he told the BBC.
A BBC correspondent Lina Sinjab said she could feel the shock as a result of explosion from her home located at a 5-min drive from the port. “My building was shaking, it was about to fall, all windows were forced open,” she said. The gigantic blast was also felt in Cyprus located 240km away from central Beirut in the eastern Mediterranean.
Local media showed people stuck under the heavy rubble, wrecked cars, damaged buildings and ambulances wailing sirens as they ripped through the dense traffic to reach the site. The head of Lebanon’s Red Cross, George Kettani described the blast as a “huge catastrophe”, adding: “There are victims and casualties everywhere.”
The organization said it was coordinating with Lebanese health ministry to set up morgues and was also working with the authorities to conduct search and rescue for those missing after the incident.