At least 10 people have died after a huge explosion rocked Beirut this evening, with witnesses describing seeing buildings be ‘blown apart’ by the impact.
Shocking videos from the scene show large plumes of thick smoke rising into the air near former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Downtown Beirut residence. One woman stated that all the buildings in her block had been ‘destroyed’, leaving ‘everyone covered in glass and blood’.
The causes of the explosions is not yet clear, but it comes ahead of the verdict in a trial for the killing of ex Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was murdered in a car bombing in 2005. The Iran-backed Hezbollah group has consistently denied any role in his death.
Local TV stations have said the blast came from Beirut’s port, inside an area where firecrackers are stored. Several videos of the explosion appear to show firecrackers going off in the minutes before the large blast.
Lebanon’s health minister Hamad Hasan said the blast had caused a ‘very high’ number of injuries and ‘extensive damage’ to the city, while Al Mayadeen television reported hundreds as being wounded.
A Lebanese security source stated that at least 10 bodies had been moved from the area, while nearby hospitals have put a call out for blood donations.
Footage of the aftermath has shown whole buildings with their windows shattered and destroyed cars littered along roads covered in debris.
One witness told Reuters: ‘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.’
Another person described seeing heavy grey smoke near the port area, before hearing the explosion and seeing flames of fire and black smoke.
They went on: ‘All the downtown area windows are smashed and there are wounded people walking around. It is total chaos.’
Lebanon is already in the midst of an economic crisis, with the government facing rapid inflation, soaring unemployment and poverty, all worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier today dozens of protesters battled with security forces as they tried to storm the Ministry of Energy in anger at prolonged power cuts.
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