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A massive explosion has rocked Beirut, flattening much of the port, and sending a shock wave that damaged buildings across the capital, killing more than 60 people and injuring over 3,000 more.

Source : PortMac.News | Globe :

Source : PortMac.News | Globe | News Story:

Massive explosion rocks Beirut, 1 Australian amongst dead
A massive explosion has rocked Beirut, flattening much of the port, and sending a shock wave that damaged buildings across the capital, killing more than 60 people and injuring over 3,000 more.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says one Australian has been killed in the explosion.

The afternoon blast saw homes and offices destroyed around the city's port area — where the explosion occurred — as thick smoke billowed after a large white cloud and shock wave erupted at the site, shattering windows, overturning vehicles and blowing in doors across the city.

Lebanon's Health Minister, Hamad Hasan, said more than 60 people had been killed and over 3,000 injured in the incident, with more bodies still buried in the rubble.

Abbas Ibrahim, chief of Lebanese General Security, said the incident might have been caused by highly explosive material that was confiscated from a ship some time ago and stored at the port.

Local television channel LBC said the material was sodium nitrate.

Witnesses reported seeing a strange orange-coloured cloud over the site after the explosion. Orange clouds of toxic nitrogen dioxide gas often accompany an explosion involving nitrates.

The head of Lebanon's Red Cross said thousands of people had been injured and taken to hospital and that others were trapped in their homes.

A civil defence official said his men had evacuated dozens to hospitals and that there were still bodies inside the port, many of them under debris.

The sudden devastation overwhelmed a country already struggling with both the coronavirus pandemic and an economic crisis.

Beirut hospitals quickly filled beyond capacity, pleading for blood supplies and generators to keep their lights on.

Dozens of ambulances ferried the injured from the port area, where the wounded lay on the ground.

There have been reports of damaged buildings at least 10 kilometres from the blast.

'Balconies were blown off buildings'

Video taken by residents showed a fire raging at the port, sending up a giant column of smoke, illuminated by flashes. Local TV stations reported that a fireworks warehouse was involved.

The fire then appeared to catch at a nearby building, triggering a more massive explosion, sending up a think cloud and a shock wave over the city.

"It was like a nuclear explosion," said Walid Abdo, a 43-year-old school teacher in the neighbourhood of Gemayzeh near Beirut.

Charbel Haj, who works at the port, said it started as small explosions like firecrackers, then the huge blast erupted and he was thrown off his feet. His clothes were torn.

"I saw a fireball and smoke billowing over Beirut. People were screaming and running, bleeding. Balconies were blown off buildings. Glass in high-rise buildings shattered and fell to the street," a witness told Reuters.

Another witness said she saw heavy grey smoke near the port area and then heard an explosion and saw flames of fire and black smoke.

"All the downtown area windows are smashed and there are wounded people walking around. It is total chaos," she said.

Kilometres from the port, balconies were knocked down, windows shattered, streets were covered with glass and bricks and lined with wrecked cars and motorcyclists picked their way through traffic, carrying the injured.

One woman covered in blood from the waist up walked down a trashed street while talking furiously on her phone. On another street, a woman with a bloodied face looked distraught, staggering through traffic with two friends at her side

The blast came at a time when Lebanon’s economy is facing collapse, hit both by a financial crisis and coronavirus restrictions.

Many have lost jobs, while the worth of their savings has evaporated as the currency has plunged in value against the US dollar and many have been thrown into poverty.

It also comes amid rising tensions between Israel and the militant Hezbollah group along Lebanon's southern border.

An Israeli official told Reuters that the nation did not have anything to do with the explosion.

The explosion was reminiscent of massive blasts during Lebanon's civil war and took place only three days before a UN-backed tribunal was set to give its verdict in the killing of former prime minister Rafik Hariri in a truck bombing more than 15 years ago.

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