Beirut explosion – Massive blast with mushroom cloud rips through Lebanese city killing 30 and injuring at least 3,000
A MASSIVE explosion has killed at least 30 people and left 3,000 injured after the blast devastated part of Lebanon's capital Beirut.
Pictures show buildings destroyed, people walking wounded, and a sea of wreckage after the blast that could be heard some 125 miles away in Cyprus.
Lebanon's state news agency NNA and two security sources said the blast had occurred in the port area where there are warehouses housing explosives, reports Reuters.
Nearby buildings around the port have been leveled, windows and doors have been blown out, and fires burn as smoke plumes billow across Beirut.
The Government Palace – the home of Lebanon's PM Hassan Diab- was damaged in the blast, and his wife and daughter were injured in the explosion.
Some people are believed to still be trapped under the rubble – including in their damaged homes.
Lebanese health minister Hamad Hasan said: "I have never in my life seen a disaster this big."
He confirmed 30 people have been killed and at least 3,000 people injured in the explosion.
Video shows a column of smoke rising from the port area from what appeared to be an initial explosion, followed by a massive blast that sent up a mushroom cloud and a shock wave.
The blast was compared to an earthquake, and was heard 145 miles away across the sea in Cyprus.
And homes were damaged as far as six miles away from the explosion.
Beirut's governor Philip Boulos called the explosion a national disaster and compared it to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear attacks that killed an estimated 225,000 people.
Fighting back tears as he arrived at the scene of the disaster, he said: "I ask the Lebanese people to pull together."
Fires continued to burn as the sun set as rescuers desperately searched the wreckage for any survivors.
Major General Abbas Ibrahim, director of General Security, said the blast was likely caused by a fire in a depot of highly explosive material that had been seized from a ship a few months ago and stored there.
Al Mayadeen television reported there were hundreds of casualties, and the Lebanese Red Cross have said they are receiving thousands of emergency calls.
Red Cross spokesman Georges Kettaneh said emergency services had been "overwhelmed" and ambulances have been called in from across the country to aid the rescue effort.
It appears there was a fire or an explosion at a site in the port, before another much large explosion then ripped through the area.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun called for an emergency meeting of the country's Supreme Defence Council.
A witness said: "Everyone dropped to the ground and I remember opening my eyes and… just seeing dust and a bunch of rubble"
Videos on social media appear to show several small explosions coming from a building before the main blast – with previous claims the blast was caused by fireworks.
A witness said: "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."
Pictures showing the battered and bloody arriving at hospitals in search of treatment after the carnage.
An AP photographer near Beirut's port saw people lying wounded on the ground and widespread destruction in central Beirut.
American journalist Ben Wedeman is also reporting live from a partially wrecked bureau in Beirut.
He said: “This was something the likes I’ve never seen before… Initially I thought it was an earthquake.”
Hospitals are reportedly desperately requesting blood donations as the wounded stream in.
Another witness said: "All the downtown area windows are smashed and there are wounded people walking around. It is total chaos."
Video of the explosion has been shared on social media, with one eyewitness describing it as "terrifying".
The BBC says the explosion comes as a verdict is due in a trial over the killing of ex-PM Rafik Hariri in 2005.
It comes at a time when Lebanon is passing through its worst economic and financial crisis in decades.
It also comes amid rising tensions between Israel and the militant Hezbollah group along Lebanon's southern border.
An Israeli official said said the nation had nothing to do with a huge explosion amid ongoing clashes between the two nations.
Israel's Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told Israeli N12 television news that the explosion was most likely an accident caused by a fire
UN spokesman Farhan Haq said: "We do not have information about what has happened precisely, what has caused this, whether its accidental or manmade act."
White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany told a news briefing on Tuesday that the Trump administration is tracking the aftermath but she offered no details about the causes of the blast.
The US State Department said they are ready to offer "all possible assistance" to Lebanon – but once again said it had no information on the cause.
Meanwhile, the US Pentagon said: "We are aware of the explosion and are concerned for the potential loss of life due to such a massive explosion."
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: "My thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the devastating explosion in #Beirut today.
"The UK stands in solidarity with the people of Lebanon and is ready to offer help and support including to those British nationals impacted."
Meanwhile, Labour leader Keir Starmer tweeted: "The images of explosions in Beirut are deeply worrying.
"Our thoughts are with those affected, the emergency services and the people of Lebanon."
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