Massive Explosion in Lebanon's Capital Beirut Leaves at Least 73 People Dead, Thousands More Injured
Lebanese Health Minister Hamad Hassan told reporters that at least 2,750 had been injured in the explosion
A warehouse that authorities say stored “highly explosive materials” was the site of a massive explosion that left scores of Lebanese citizens dead and thousands of others injured.
Footage of the terrifying scene went viral on social media on Tuesday, with many videos showing a plume of smoke spewing from a building near Beirut's waterfront before a sudden large explosion rips apart the surrounding area.
Video following the explosion showed rubble and broken glass along with the city's streets, with people scrambling to leave the area.
Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s general security service, told the National News Agency that "highly explosive materials" which had been confiscated by the government years ago, according to the New York Times,
Many on social media believed the warehouse may have contained fireworks, a notion spurred on by videos showing sparks going off inside the building before the explosion. One Twitter user who was near the blast seemed to reject the idea while sharing footage of the destruction to roads and vehicles around him.
"Fireworks explosion?!" he tweeted. "I felt like I’m dying, I still can’t believe it."
President Donald Trump was also skeptical about what caused the massive explosion telling reporters on Tuesday that after speaking to U.S. generals, "They seem to think it was an attack. It was a bomb of some kind." He did not provide further details or evidence.
However, explaining why an accidental blast would be so large, Mohammed Fahmi, Lebanon's interior minister, said ammonium nitrate was stored at the warehouse and may have been what caused the explosion, according to Al Jazeera.
"What happened today will not come to pass without accountability," Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab said after the accident. "Those responsible will pay a price for this catastrophe."
"This is a promise to the martyrs and wounded people," he said, according to the Times. "This is a national commitment."
Lebanese Health Minister Hamad Hassan said at least 73 people were found dead so far, CNN reported, citing TeleLiban. At least 2,750 people have been injured.
A huge cloud of smoke was seen after the accident and Beirut governor Marwan Abboud said the scene was reminiscent of the atomic bombs dropped in World War II.
"In my life, I haven't seen destruction on this scale," Abboud said. "This is a national catastrophe."
Nizar Najarian, secretary-general of the Kataeb political party, was also reportedly killed in the incident. According to CNN, the U.S. Embassy in Beirut asked residents to remain inside and wear face-coverings to protect themselves from toxic gas.
Vincenco Orlandini, a crew member aboard a ship that was docked near the warehouse, told Al Jazeera that the vessel is now "totally destroyed."
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"I heard the blast and I flew to the opposite of the lobby, then I landed on the carpet and I'm lucky, I think that saved me," he told the outlet.
Another witness to the explosion told Al Jazeera he was shocked by the amount of devastation caused by the accident.
"I've seen the assassinations and the explosions but this is something else," he said. "There is something wrong here."