Massive explosions in Beirut kill and wound many, cause extensive damage

BEIRUT: Two massive explosions in Beirut killed at least 10 people, wounded hundreds and caused extensive damage across the Lebanese capital.

The blasts took place at the city’s port area and were so large the explosions were felt in Cyprus 200 kilometers away. 

Even in a city with a history of conflict, the scale of the explosions was unprecedented.

Videos showed an initial blast and fire, followed by a massive explosion and shockwave spreading through the city’s buildings.

People could be heard screaming and running for cover in restaurants and from balconies. Many thought they had been hit by a massive earthquake.

Buildings across the whole city were damaged, with windows blown out and ceilings collapsed.

Lebanon’s health minister Hamad Hasan said the explosion caused a “very high number of injuries.”

Lebanese Red Cross official Georges Kettaneh said there had been hundreds of casualties, including dead, wounded. He said many people remained trapped in their homes.

The cause of the blast remains unknown. An Israeli official told Reuters that the country had nothing to do with the blasts.

Lebanon's internal security chief Abbas Ibrahim said the explosions took place in a section of the port housing highly-explosive materials.

He declined to speculate about the cause of the explosion in Lebanon's capital, saying “we cannot preempt investigations.”

The blasts took place just days before a UN tribunal was due to deliver verdicts against four men accused of killing the former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others in a 2005 bombing that shook the region. The suspects are members of Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militant group which has since increased its role in the country’s government and conflicts across the region.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab declared a day of mourning for Wednesday.

President Michel Aoun called for an emergency meeting of the country's Supreme Defence Council.

The explosions, which took place amid a desperate financial crisis and as the country struggles to contain COVID-19 left people in shock.

Many scrambled to contact relatives and friends, while assessing the damage to their homes.

Lebanese firefighters work at the scene of an explosion in the Lebanese capital Beirut on Aug. 4, 2020. (AFP)

Lebanese directer Jan Choueiri said the scenes near his home in the Achrafieh neighborhood “looked like the apocalypse.”

“I could have died,” he said on Facebook. “I am relatively safe along with everyone here with me. I still can’t reach everyone to know who is well and who is not … Blood is everywhere on the streets of Achrafieh. People are injured everywhere around if not dead.”

Lebanese journalist Rima Maktabi tearfully described the damage to her home. 

“My house is gone I think”, she told Al-Arabiya, the channel she works for. “There are a lot of injuries and lots of shattered glass.”
Raja Farah, a pastry chef, said he was just half a kilometer from the explosion.

“It is impossible to explain the magnitude of this explosion,” he said on Facebook. “I was thrown to the ground and a cloud of what felt like sand burnt my face.”

He added: “I was about as far from the Hariri explosion a few years back, and this was, no exaggeration, 100 times more powerful.”

*With agencies

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