Massive explosions rock Lebanon’s capital of Beirut; Trump says it was an ‘attack’

A wounded man walks at the port near the scene of an explosion in the Lebanese capital Beirut. (AFP)

At least 70 people were killed Tuesday and more than 3,000 wounded in multiple explosions that rocked Downtown Beirut, Lebanon's health minister said. US President Donald Trump said he had reason to believe that the blasts were an attack.

Buildings several kilometers away suffered material damage, the explosions were heard over 20 kilometers away from Beirut and residents in Cyprus said they felt the blasts.

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An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the explosions, which resulted in a giant mushroom cloud above the country. But Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate were stored in the warehouse that exploded in the Port of Beirut.

Lebanon's head of General Security Abbas Ibrahim told reporters that "highly explosive materials" that were confiscated "a while back" were stored at the site of the explosion.

Diab said the ammonium nitrate had been there since 2014.

But later Tuesday, the US president said military generals he spoke to "seem to think it was an attack." Trump said that "it was a bomb of some kind," during a White House briefing.

Tens killed, thousands wounded

Lebanon's Health Minister Hamad Hassan said that more than 70 people died and 3,700 were wounded so far.

Initial reports and eyewitness accounts suggest that there were two separate explosions. Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud said firefighters were dispatched to put out a fire reported at the Port of Beirut. "As they were putting out the fire, an explosion took place and we've [lost them]," Abboud said on live TV as he broke down in tears.

A picture shows the scene of an explosion in Beirut on August 4, 2020. (AFP)

A picture shows the scene of an explosion in Beirut on August 4, 2020. (AFP)

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One photographer told Al Arabiya English he saw "at least 15 dead bodies" at the Port of Beirut.

Lebanon is currently going through an unprecedented financial and economic crisis and an international tribunal is expected to issue its verdict on the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri later this week. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon has already indicted and accused Hezbollah members of carrying out the killing.

One Beirut resident told Al Arabiya English that she heard a loud explosion, "and then we heard airplanes and an explosion. The whole house shook."

Another resident north of Beirut told Al Arabiya English that he felt the ground tremble while shopping in Kaslik, 20 kilometers north of Beirut.

Hospitals damaged, doctors forced to treat patients in parking lots

Hospitals across Beirut were forced to treat patients in parking lots after the explosions damaged hospitals and left a big part of Beirut without electricity. Beirut hospitals had to use outdoor parking lots as many buildings were either damaged or overcrowded with patients.

The coronavirus pandemic dealt a severe blow to Lebanese hospitals that were already in a dire economic situation due to millions of dollars of unpaid bills from the Lebanese government.

Videos circulated of wounded victims being turned away at hospitals that had reached capacity. Hospitals outside of Beirut were also reported to have opened their doors.

Lebanon's wheat silos destroyed

The silos, which are located at the Port of Beirut, contain essential grain reserves including wheat, corn, and barely. Lebanon, which imports up to 80 percent of its food needs, is particularly reliant on imported soft wheat to make Arabic flatbread, a national staple.

An injured man walks at the explosion scene that hit the seaport, in Beirut Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. (AP)

An injured man walks at the explosion scene that hit the seaport, in Beirut Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. (AP)

The blast also damaged two vessels offloading wheat at the time of the explosion and port machinery for discharging goods, and machinery within the silos.

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UN boat damaged, peacekeepers injured

A ship of the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was damaged, "leaving some UNIFIL naval peacekeepers injured -- some of them seriously," a UNIFIL statement said.

Germany's Foreign Ministry also revealed that members of its Embassy in Beirut were injured.

The US Embassy in Beirut released a statement saying that there were reports of toxic gases released in the explosion, "so all in the area should stay indoors and wear masks if available."

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Last Update: Wednesday, 05 August 2020 KSA 05:17 - GMT 02:17
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