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Beirut explosion: Lebanon in mourning as rescue workers search rubble for victims of enormous blast



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Lebanon has begun three days of mourning as rescuers searched for victims of an enormous blast that killed at least 100 and injured 4,000 sending shockwaves through Beirut.

A massive operation was underway to find survivors and bodies trapped in the mangled wreckage of buildings across the city shaken by the “catastrophic” three kiloton blast, a fifth of the power of the atomic bomb that levelled Hiroshima.

President Michel Aoun said the blast was caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate which had been stored unsafely in a warehouse in the Port of Beirut for six years.

Today, a welder repairing a hole in the warehouse was blamed by a security source and local media for sparking a fire at the port, which they said set light to the warehouse, causing the explosion that sent a huge mushroom cloud in the air.

Beirut explosion aftermath – In pictures

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The scene of an explosion in Beirut

AFP via Getty Images

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A man reacts at the scene of an explosion at the port in Lebanon’s capital Beirut

AFP via Getty Images

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Firefighters spray water at a fire following an explosion in Beirut’s port area, Lebanon

REUTERS

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A helicopter puts out a fire at the scene of an explosion at the port of Lebanon’s capital Beirut

AFP via Getty Images

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A fireball exploding while smoke is billowing at the port of the Lebanese capital Beirut

MOUAFAC HARB/AFP via Getty Image

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Lebanese firefighters work at the scene of an explosion in the Lebanese capital Beirut

AFP via Getty Images

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The scene of an explosion at the port in the Lebanese capital Beiru

AFP via Getty Images

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A helicopter puts out a fire at the scene of an explosion at the port of Lebanon’s capital Beirut

AFP via Getty Images

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TALAL TRABOULSI via REUTERS

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A view shows the aftermath of yesterday’s blast at the port of Lebanon’s capital Beiru

AFP via Getty Images

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Lebanese soldiers search for survivors after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

AP

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A man walks by an overturned car and destroyed buildings on August 4, 2020 in Beirut, Lebano

Getty Images

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Lebanese soldiers search for survivors after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

AP

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A view shows the aftermath of yesterday’s blast at the port of Lebanon’s capital Beiru

AFP via Getty Images

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Smoke rises after an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

via REUTERS

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A drone picture shows the scene of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon

AP

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People gather outside American University of Beirut (AUB) medical centre following an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

REUTERS

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People ride past a car destroyed after a building wall collapsed after a large explosion in Beirut

Getty Images

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Damaged church and vehicles are seen following yesterday’s blast that shook the Lebanese capital Beirut

AFP via Getty Images

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A drone picture shows the scene of an explosion at the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon

AP

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The scene of an explosion at the port of Lebanon’s capital Beirut

AFP via Getty Images

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Buildings and cars are partially destroyed in the neighbourhood of Mar Mikhael following an explosion at the port of Beiru

AFP via Getty Images

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A rescue worker tends to an injured man following an explosion at the port of Beirut

AFP via Getty Images

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Smoke rises from a port facility after large explosions

Getty Images

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The destroyed silo sits in rubble and debris after an explosion at the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon

AP

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Smoke is seen after an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

GABY MAAMARY via REUTERS

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Civilians help an injured man at the explosion scene that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon

AP

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Smoke rises as people walk near the site of an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

REUTERS

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Lebanese soldiers stand outside American University of Beirut (AUB) medical centre following an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

REUTERS

30/41

Smoke rises from a port facility after large explosions

Getty Images

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Damaged vehicle and buildings are pictured near the site of Tuesday’s blast in Beirut’s port area, Lebanon

REUTERS

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A general view shows the damage near the site of Tuesday’s blast in Beirut’s port area, Lebanon

REUTERS

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People stand near damaged cars following an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

REUTERS

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Smoke rises from a port facility after large explosions

Getty Images

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People inspect the damage near the site of Tuesday’s blast in Beirut’s port area, Lebanon

REUTERS

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A view shows the damaged facade of a building following Tuesday’s blast in Beirut’s port area, Lebano

REUTERS

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A wounded man walks next to a damaged car on a street, following an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

via REUTERS

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Damaged buildings are seen after an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

via REUTERS

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Smoke rises over destroyed structures following large explosion

Getty Images

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A view shows the aftermath at the site of Tuesday’s blast in Beirut’s port area, Lebanon

REUTERS

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Smoke rises from a port facility after large explosion

Getty Images

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The scene of an explosion in Beirut

AFP via Getty Images

2/41

A man reacts at the scene of an explosion at the port in Lebanon’s capital Beirut

AFP via Getty Images

3/41

Firefighters spray water at a fire following an explosion in Beirut’s port area, Lebanon

REUTERS

4/41

A helicopter puts out a fire at the scene of an explosion at the port of Lebanon’s capital Beirut

AFP via Getty Images

5/41

A fireball exploding while smoke is billowing at the port of the Lebanese capital Beirut

MOUAFAC HARB/AFP via Getty Image

6/41

Lebanese firefighters work at the scene of an explosion in the Lebanese capital Beirut

AFP via Getty Images

7/41

The scene of an explosion at the port in the Lebanese capital Beiru

AFP via Getty Images

8/41

A helicopter puts out a fire at the scene of an explosion at the port of Lebanon’s capital Beirut

AFP via Getty Images

9/41

TALAL TRABOULSI via REUTERS

10/41

A view shows the aftermath of yesterday’s blast at the port of Lebanon’s capital Beiru

AFP via Getty Images

11/41

Lebanese soldiers search for survivors after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

AP

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A man walks by an overturned car and destroyed buildings on August 4, 2020 in Beirut, Lebano

Getty Images

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Lebanese soldiers search for survivors after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

AP

14/41

A view shows the aftermath of yesterday’s blast at the port of Lebanon’s capital Beiru

AFP via Getty Images

15/41

Smoke rises after an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

via REUTERS

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A drone picture shows the scene of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon

AP

17/41

People gather outside American University of Beirut (AUB) medical centre following an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

REUTERS

18/41

People ride past a car destroyed after a building wall collapsed after a large explosion in Beirut

Getty Images

19/41

Damaged church and vehicles are seen following yesterday’s blast that shook the Lebanese capital Beirut

AFP via Getty Images

20/41

A drone picture shows the scene of an explosion at the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon

AP

21/41

The scene of an explosion at the port of Lebanon’s capital Beirut

AFP via Getty Images

22/41

Buildings and cars are partially destroyed in the neighbourhood of Mar Mikhael following an explosion at the port of Beiru

AFP via Getty Images

23/41

A rescue worker tends to an injured man following an explosion at the port of Beirut

AFP via Getty Images

24/41

Smoke rises from a port facility after large explosions

Getty Images

25/41

The destroyed silo sits in rubble and debris after an explosion at the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon

AP

26/41

Smoke is seen after an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

GABY MAAMARY via REUTERS

27/41

Civilians help an injured man at the explosion scene that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon

AP

28/41

Smoke rises as people walk near the site of an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

REUTERS

29/41

Lebanese soldiers stand outside American University of Beirut (AUB) medical centre following an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

REUTERS

30/41

Smoke rises from a port facility after large explosions

Getty Images

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Damaged vehicle and buildings are pictured near the site of Tuesday’s blast in Beirut’s port area, Lebanon

REUTERS

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A general view shows the damage near the site of Tuesday’s blast in Beirut’s port area, Lebanon

REUTERS

33/41

People stand near damaged cars following an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

REUTERS

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Smoke rises from a port facility after large explosions

Getty Images

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People inspect the damage near the site of Tuesday’s blast in Beirut’s port area, Lebanon

REUTERS

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A view shows the damaged facade of a building following Tuesday’s blast in Beirut’s port area, Lebano

REUTERS

37/41

A wounded man walks next to a damaged car on a street, following an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

via REUTERS

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Damaged buildings are seen after an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

via REUTERS

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Smoke rises over destroyed structures following large explosion

Getty Images

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A view shows the aftermath at the site of Tuesday’s blast in Beirut’s port area, Lebanon

REUTERS

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Smoke rises from a port facility after large explosion

Getty Images

US President Donald Trump earlier suggested the disaster was caused by a “terrible attack”, suggesting it was “some kind of bomb”. But US Defense Department officials later contradicted the president saying there was no indication of this.

With the death toll set to rise further, Lebanese rescue workers dug through rubble of collapsed buildings looking for trapped victims. Entire streets resembled a huge scrapyard and many buildings were ripped of windows, roofs and balconies.

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President Aoun called for an emergency cabinet meeting and declared a two-week state of emergency.

He announced the government would release 100 billion lira (£50.5m) in emergency funds.

Beirut’s mayor, Jamal Itani inspected the damage he estimated would cost billions to repair.

He said: “It’s like a war zone. I’m speechless. This is a catastrophe for Beirut and Lebanon.”

Dramatic video of explosion that rocked Beirut

He added: “There are victims and casualties everywhere. We are still sweeping the area. There could still be victims. I hope not.”

At hospitals across the city loved ones had been waiting all night for news of relatives who had gone missing or were wounded. Others posted requests for help online.

The Red Cross is working with health officials to set up temporary morgues because hospitals were overwhelmed.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab, in a brief televised speech, appealed to all countries and friends to extend help to the small nation. He said those responsible “will pay the price”, adding: “We are witnessing a real catastrophe.”

Aerials show devastating impact of Beirut explosion

Britain is looking at what technical and financial help it could provide, schools minister Nick Gibb told BBC Radio today. He said all British embassy staff had been accounted for but was unable to confirm if any Britons had been injured.

Hours after the blast, shortly after 6pm local time, fire blazed in the port district, casting an orange glow across the night sky as helicopters hovered and ambulance sirens sounded across the capital.

Local media showed victims trapped beneath rubble. Wounded and bleeding survivors were seen running and shouting for help in clouds of smoke and dust in streets littered with damaged buildings, flying debris, and wrecked cars and furniture.

The blast was heard throughout Cyprus, which is about 100 miles away.

(AFP via Getty Images)

For many, the explosion revived memories of a 1975-90 civil war and its aftermath, when Lebanese endured heavy shelling, car bombings and Israeli air raids. Some residents thought an earthquake had struck.

Dazed, weeping and injured people walked through streets searching for relatives.

Beirut designer Huda Baroudi said: “The blast blew me metres away. I was in a daze and was all covered in blood.”

The US embassy in Beirut warned residents about reports of toxic gases released by the blast, urging people to stay indoors and wear masks.

(AFP via Getty Images)

Lebanon was already on the brink of collapse amid a severe economic crisis that has ignited mass protests in recent months. Its hospitals are confronting a surge in coronavirus cases, and there were concerns the virus could spread further as people flooded into hospitals.

The blast destroyed numerous apartment buildings, potentially leaving large numbers of people homeless at a time when many Lebanese have lost their jobs and seen their savings evaporate because of a currency crisis. The explosion also raises concerns about how Lebanon will continue to import nearly all of its vital goods with its main port devastated.

The explosion happened close to the scene of the huge car bombing which killed ex-PM Rafik Hariri in 2005. Tensions in the city were already high ahead of long-awaited verdicts in the trial of four men accused of orchestrating the attack.

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