Large ex­plo­sion rocks Beirut

Cape Breton Post - - WORLD -

BEIRUT - A huge ex­plo­sion near the cen­tre of Beirut killed at least 10 peo­ple, in­jured hun­dreds and sent shock­waves across the Le­banese cap­i­tal, shat­ter­ing win­dows and caus­ing apart­ment bal­conies to col­lapse, wit­nesses and se­cu­rity sources said.

The most pow­er­ful ex­plo­sion to hit Beirut in years shook the ground, leav­ing some res­i­dents think­ing an earth­quake had struck. Dazed and weep­ing, some of them wounded, peo­ple walked through streets check­ing to see if rel­a­tives were hurt.

The blast oc­curred in the city’s port area, where there were ware­houses hous­ing ex­plo­sives, Le­banon’s state news agency NNA and two se­cu­rity sources said. A third se­cu­rity source said there were chem­i­cals stored in the area.

Footage of the blast shared by res­i­dents on so­cial me­dia showed a col­umn of smoke ris­ing from the port district fol­lowed by an enor­mous blast. Those film­ing what ini­tially ap­peared to be a big blaze were thrown back­wards by the shock of the ex­plo­sion.

At least 10 bod­ies were taken to hos­pi­tals, a se­cu­rity source and a med­i­cal source told Reuters. The Le­banese Red Cross said hun­dreds of peo­ple were taken hos­pi­tals for treat­ment.

Le­banese Pres­i­dent Michel Aoun called for an emer­gency meet­ing of the coun­try’s Supreme De­fence Coun­cil, ac­cord­ing to the pres­i­dency’s Twit­ter ac­count.

It was not im­me­di­ately clear what caused the blaze that set off the blast or what kind of ex­plo­sives were in the ware­houses.

Le­banon’s In­ter­nal Se­cu­rity Chief Ab­bas Ibrahim, tour­ing the port area, said he would not pre-empt in­ves­ti­ga­tions. An Is­raeli of­fi­cial said Is­rael had noth­ing to do with the blast.

The gov­er­nor of Beirut port told Sky News that a team of fire­fight­ers at the scene had “dis­ap­peared” af­ter the ex­plo­sion.

“I saw a fire­ball and smoke bil­low­ing over Beirut. Peo­ple were scream­ing and run­ning, bleed­ing. Bal­conies were blown off build­ings. Glass in high-rise build­ings shat­tered and fell to the street,” said a Reuters wit­ness.

The health min­is­ter told Reuters there was a “very high num­ber” of in­jured. Al Mayadeen TV said hun­dreds were wounded.

An­other Reuters wit­ness said she saw heavy grey smoke near the port area and then heard an ex­plo­sion and saw flames and black smoke: “All the down­town area win­dows are smashed and there are wounded peo­ple walk­ing around. It is to­tal chaos.”

UN spokesman Farhan Haq told re­porters it was not im­me­di­ately clear what the cause was, and that there was no in­di­ca­tion of any in­juries to any UN per­son­nel.

“We do not have in­for­ma­tion about what has hap­pened pre­cisely, what has caused this, whether it’s ac­ci­den­tal or man­made act,” he said.

The U.S. Pen­tagon said: “We are aware of the ex­plo­sion and are con­cerned for the po­ten­tial loss of life due to such a mas­sive ex­plo­sion.”

In Cyprus, an is­land ly­ing west of Le­banon, res­i­dents re­ported two large bangs in quick suc­ces­sion. One res­i­dent of the cap­i­tal Ni­cosia said his house shook, rat­tling shut­ters.

REUTERS

Peo­ple run for cover fol­low­ing an ex­plo­sion in Beirut’s port area, Le­banon on Tues­day.

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