An explosion ripped through the Lebanese capital Beirut earlier today, causing significant damage. Windows in buildings located several kilometres away from the epicentre of the blast were knocked out. It remains unclear how many people were injured in the incident, as many remain trapped under rubble.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab has declared 5 August a day of national mourning after a huge blast tore through the capital Beirut, killing at least 70 people. Here is what is known so far about the incident.
The blast occurred near the centre of the city, by a port in an area where a mainly Christian population resides.
Lebanon’s internal security chief Abbas Ibrahim said that the explosion occurred in a section of the port that housed highly explosive materials. Other reports say the blast could have been caused by sodium nitrate that was confiscated from a ship last year and was being stored in a warehouse.
Internet in Beirut is working sporadically. There is no electricity in several districts in the city and the telephone service is disrupted.
The office of Lebanon’s electricity supplier in the capital was completely destroyed in the explosion.
More than 30 brigades from the Red Cross are currently working at the scene as rescue workers pull people out from the rubble. Lebanon’s health minister has called on hospitals to mobilise and save the lives of the hundreds of people that were injured in the blast.
Local media reports say the country’s President Michel Aoun will convene a meeting of Lebanon’s Supreme Defence Council at his official residence.
According to media reports, the wife and daughter of Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab were injured in the explosion.
Initial reports say the incident was not a terrorist act. The head of Lebanon’s General Security Directorate has denied allegations that the blast could have occurred due to an explosion of pyrotechnics in the port of Beirut.
Israel has denied involvement in the incident, while a Hezbollah source told local media that the explosion was not the result of a missile attack on a purported weapons cache in the port where the explosion’s epicentre is located.
The secretary-general of Lebanon’s Kataeb political party was critically injured during the explosion and died shortly after, the Al Arabiya TV channel reported.