A large explosion rocked the Lebanon capital of Beirut on Tuesday after a major fire broke out near the city’s port, killing at least 78 people and injuring around 4,000.
Initially, there were conflicting reports on what caused the explosion. It was earlier blamed on a major fire at a warehouse for firecrackers near the port.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab later said in a statement that an estimated 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, an explosive, had been stored at a warehouse for the past six years.
The blast tore through the city and wreaked havoc on nearly all of Beirut’s quarters as a large mushroom cloud rose above the capital. The shockwave from the explosion damaged buildings as far away as 10 km from the site of the blast. Streets were filled with shattered glass and debris.
Emergency wards were inundated with the injured, while the Lebanese Red Cross implored the public on Twitter for blood donations to help the wounded.
Later, Lebanese President Michael Aoun ordered military patrols in the city and vowed to investigate. Prime Minister Diab said the storage of ammonium nitrate at a warehouse was “unacceptable” and would be investigated.
Ammonium nitrate is a key ingredient in both fertilizer and certain types of explosives. The substance has been used in terror attacks, including the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.
Meanwhile, Lebanese President Michel Aoun called for an emergency cabinet meeting today and said a two-week state of emergency should be declared following a massive explosion.
PM Narendra Modi also expresses his shock and concern over the incident. Taking to twitter PM wrote, “Shocked and saddened by the large explosion in Beirut city leading to loss of life and property. Our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families and the injured.”