About 80 people have been killed and over 4,000 injured, after a massive explosion erupted in the Beirut port area in Lebanon, damaging buildings and vehicles.
The country’s health minister, Hamad Hassan, who confirmed the latest figures, said the death toll will rise in hours to come, adding that the blasts have caused a “very high number of injuries” and huge damage.
“It is a disaster in every sense of the word,” he said in an interview with several television channels while visiting a hospital in the Lebanese capital.
The explosion occurred at around 6.00pm local time at the city’s port, where warehouses are believed to contain explosive materials.
Footage posted on social media showed smoke billowing from a building in the area, before an enormous fireball explodes into the sky, sending a vast shockwave across the city, that was heard and felt as far as Cyprus, which is more than 200km away.
The explosion also destroyed the house of former Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, who has been confirmed safe by his party.
Beirut’s Hotel Dieu Hospital is said to have admitted more than 500 wounded patients, and can no longer receiving more.
Lebanon’s Red Cross confirmed has confirmed that many others are still trapped in their homes.
Abbas Ibrahim, general security chief, said: “It appears that there is a warehouse containing material that was confiscated years ago, and it appears that it was highly explosive material.”
Prime Minister, Hasan Diab, has declared Wednesday as a day of national mourning, and President, Michel Aoun, called for “urgent” defence council talks.
Diab later disclosed that the explosion was caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate at the port, vowing to punish those responsible.