The blast was heard from miles away, and the damage was extensive. At around 6 p.m. Tuesday, two explosions swept through the port of Beirut, leaving at least ten dead and dozens injured, according to Lebanese security and medical sources. The president of the Lebanese Red Cross, Georges Kettaneh, even mentioned " hundreds of wounded " in a statement on Lebanese television LBC. " We are overwhelmed by phone calls ," he said, advancing the risk that a large number of people will be caught under the rubble.
LIVE - Explosions in Beirut: several dead and dozens injured, the city in chaos
The origin of the drama was not immediately known Tuesday. According to preliminary information from local media, the explosion was caused by an incident in a warehouse area in the port of Beirut. " It seems that there is a warehouse containing materials confiscated for years, and it seems that they were very explosive materials ", said the director general of the General Security, Abbas Ibrahim, questioned by chains television while moving around the area.
The first videos taken by witnesses revealed almost unreal images of a huge mushroom of white smoke, traversed by explosions resembling fireworks. Thick billows of orange smoke then rose above the capital and the port area was completely covered with black clouds and broken glass.
On the outskirts of the port district, very close to the city center, the damage is staggering. “The effect of the explosion blew out the metal door of our store,” observe Karim and his grandson Fares, who run a stationery store whose shelves have been swept away. “ Fortunately we weren't there! I was at home, where all the windows were blown. In the store, we will have to redo everything , ”says Fares. "This is the tenth time this has happened to me!" The first time was in 1948, ”Karim puts into perspective.
From Sassine to the port, as well as in all the rather posh zone of Gemmaize, it was difficult to walk, so much the grounds were covered with debris and shards of glass. Several buildings were collapsed on the road. Many residents, in shock, were in tears. Several lifeless bodies were seen covered in ash. Local media also broadcast images of people trapped under rubble, some covered in blood. The wounded walked in the streets in the direction of hospitals, such as the Hôtel-Dieu, in the Achrafieh district, or at the Clemenceau medical center.
Almost all of the store windows in Hamra, Badaro and Hazmieh districts were also shattered, as were those of hastily abandoned cars.
Fumes continued to rise from the harbor into the evening as a helicopter attempted to put out the fires. The security forces quickly cordoned off the port area to allow only civil defense, firefighters and ambulances, which were pouring in with all howling sirens. But also to protect civilians in the event of a new explosion.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab has declared a day of national mourning and called an urgent meeting of the Supreme Defense Council. This tragedy comes as the country is currently experiencing the worst economic crisis in decades, through unprecedented currency depreciation, hyperinflation, massive layoffs and drastic banking restrictions, which for months have fueled social protest and an acute political crisis. The government is accused of delaying in initiating the economic reforms necessary for the survival of the Lebanese.
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On the regional front, where tensions are also high, Israel has said it has nothing to do with the explosions. A week ago, after months of relative calm, the Hebrew state said it had foiled a "terrorist" attack and opened fire on armed men who crossed the "Blue Line" between Lebanon and Israel, before it they do not leave the Lebanese side. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu attributed the infiltration to Hezbollah, which denied any involvement.