Over 135 people have been recorded as dead thus far and around 5,000 injured by two massive explosions that have torn apart the Lebanese capital of Beirut.
The explosions which started at its port were felt beyond the outskirts of the city, blasting buildings to smithereens, and resulting in a large fire at the epicentre that helicopters circled in attempts to extinguish even several hours later. Hospitals have been swamped with casualties and have been forced to turn those with injuries that are not life-threatening away. Many are missing and officials are expecting the death toll to rise.
Government officials informed media that “huge quantities” had been stored there, with reports suggesting that the amount nears 2750 tons.
Lebanese Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, in his TV address to the nation, mentioned that the warehouse claimed to be the source of the blast had faced warnings dating back to 2014. Diab also stated;
“I promise you this catastrophe will not pass without accountability. The people who are responsible will pay a price.”
The international community have started to react and offer humanitarian assistance. Both French President, Emmanuel Macron, and UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, have expressed solidarity and readiness to help, and as have the US and Canada.
Israel, which is currently in conflict with Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, has also offered support. Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi stated promptly that the explosion was probably caused by a fire according to reports from Beirut and suggested “caution with speculation”.
The US Embassy in Beirut has advised people to wear masks and stay indoors, following “reports of toxic gases released in the explosion.”
The explosions arrive at a terrible time for Lebanon which is currently verging on a financial collapse in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, seeing food prices risen already by 80%.
The government has announced a two-week state of emergency.