recentnews

News at the moment

WORLD

What happened in the Beirut explosion? Here’s what we know so far about the Lebanon blast



The latest headlines in your inbox twice a day Monday – Friday plus breaking news updates

A huge explosion ripped through the port area of Lebanon’s capital Beirut on Tuesday evening, killing at least 100 people and injuring thousands more.

The blast sent shock waves across the city and was heard as far away as Cyprus, some 150 miles to the north west, with many there initially believing it to be an earthquake.

It comes at a critical moment for Lebanon, with the country already struggling to cope with the twin challenges of financial collapse and a surge in coronavirus infections.

So what caused the fatal disaster? And how many lives have been affected? Here is everything we know so far:

Read more

What started the explosions?

The blast was sparked after flames broke out at a port warehouse storing highly explosive material, at about 4pm UK time on August 4.

Lebanon’s president Michel Aoun said that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, used in fertilisers and bombs, had been stored for six years at the port without proper safety measures in place.

The country’s prime minister Hassan Diab said the warehouse had been the subject of warnings dating as far back as 2014.

He said the Government would “reveal facts” about the site but did not want to pre-empt an investigation.

Officials did not say what caused the blaze that set off the blast.

But security sources and local media said it was started by welding work being carried out on a hole in the warehouse.

Beirut explosion aftermath – In pictures

1/41

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

12/41

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

Getty Images

13/41

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

16/41

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

31/41

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

REUTERS

32/41

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

34/41

Smoke rises from a port facility after large explosions

Getty Images

35/41

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

REUTERS

36/41

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

38/41

Damaged buildings are seen after an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

via REUTERS

39/41

Smoke rises over destroyed structures following large explosion

Getty Images

40/41

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

REUTERS

41/41

Smoke rises from a port facility after large explosion

Getty Images

1/41

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

12/41

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

Getty Images

13/41

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

16/41

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

31/41

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

REUTERS

32/41

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

34/41

Smoke rises from a port facility after large explosions

Getty Images

35/41

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

REUTERS

36/41

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

38/41

Damaged buildings are seen after an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

via REUTERS

39/41

Smoke rises over destroyed structures following large explosion

Getty Images

40/41

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

REUTERS

41/41

Smoke rises from a port facility after large explosion

Getty Images

How many people died in the incident?

At least 100 people were killed and more than 4,000 injured. However, the tolls are expected to rise.

Rodney Eid, of Red Cross Lebanon, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning: “The preliminary report indicates around 4,000 people have been injured and at least 100 have lost their lives.

“Our teams are still searching the area, and it is a big area, around the blast – to look for survivors, to look for people who are injured.

“We have also set up two triage and first aid locations next to the blast area so that minor injuries can be treated there as we were overwhelmed with the number of calls yesterday.

“We were trying to respond to the most vulnerable and to the critical cases first.”

He added that “there are a lot of people who are missing”.

“I expect the death toll to rise,” he said.

Footage from the scene showed entire streets in ruins, with people trapped beneath the rubble.

Rescue workers and security officers work at the scene of the explosion (AP)

What’s the international response been?

Boris Johnson has confirmed that British nationals were among those caught up in the blast.

The Prime Minister said the Government is “ready to provide support in any way we can”, and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK stands in solidarity with Lebanon.

In a tweet, Mr Johnson said: “The pictures and videos from Beirut tonight are shocking. All of my thoughts and prayers are with those caught up in this terrible incident.

“The UK is ready to provide support in any way we can, including to those British nationals affected.”

All staff at the British embassy in Beirut are accounted for, but some have sustained “non-life-threatening injuries”.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: “All Embassy staff are accounted for. A small number have sustained non-life-threatening injuries and where necessary are receiving medical attention.”

Meanwhile, Donald Trump said US military generals had told him they “seem to feel” the explosion was the result of a “terrible attack” most likely caused by a bomb.

“It would seem like it based on the explosion,” Mr Trump told reporters in Washington.

Later, two unnamed US officials contradicted the president, saying it was unclear where he was receiving his information from but that initial information didn’t suggest the explosion was an attack.

Donald Trump: explosion in Beirut was likely an ‘attack’

What happens next?

Lebanon’s Supreme Defence Council has recommended declaring a two-week state of emergency in Beirut and handing over security responsibilities to military authorities.

President Aoun also announced that the government is to release 100 billion lira (£50.5 million) of emergency funds from the country’s 2020 budget.

The head of Lebanon’s Red Cross, George Kettani, said the charity was coordinating with the country’s health ministry to set up morgues because hospitals were overwhelmed.

The country will observe an official period of mourning for three days from today.

More about:

|

Lebanon

|

Beirut

|

Red Cross

|

Boris Johnson

|

Donald Trump

|

Coronavirus