‘Most powerful ever to rip through Beirut’: City reels from huge blast, death toll climbs to at least…

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‘Most powerful ever to rip through Beirut’: City reels from huge blast, death toll climbs to at least…


Lebanese rescue workers dug through the mangled wreckage of buildings on Wednesday looking for survivors after a massive warehouse explosion sent a devastating blast wave across Beirut, killing at least 100 people and injuring nearly 4,000.

Officials said the toll was expected to rise after Tuesday’s blast at port warehouses that stored highly explosive material.

The blast was the most powerful ever to rip through Beirut, a city still scarred by civil war three decades ago and reeling from an economic meltdown and a surge in coronavirus infections.

It sent a mushroom cloud into the sky and rattled windows on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, about 100 miles (160 km) away.

President Michel Aoun said 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, used in fertilisers and bombs, had been stored for six years at the port without safety measures. He called it “unacceptable”.

An official source familiar with preliminary investigations blamed the incident on negligence. Ordinary Lebanese blamed politicians who have overseen decades of state corruption and bad governance that has plunged Lebanon into financial crisis.

“It’s like a war zone. I’m speechless,” Beirut’s mayor, Jamal Itani, told Reuters while inspecting damage he estimated ran into billions of dollars. “This is a catastrophe for Beirut and Lebanon.”

The head of Lebanon’s Red Cross, George Kettani, said at least 100 people had been killed. “We are still sweeping the area. There could still be victims. I hope not,” he said.

The intensity of the blast threw victims into the sea and rescue teams were trying to recover bodies. Many of those killed were port and custom employees and people working in the area or driving through during the Tuesday afternoon rush hour.

The Red Cross was coordinating with the Health Ministry to set up morgues because hospitals were overwhelmed, Kettani said.

‘KILLER BLOW’

Facades of central Beirut buildings were ripped off, furniture was sucked into streets and roads were strewn with glass and debris. Cars near the port were flipped over.

“This is the killer blow for Beirut, we are a disaster zone. My building shuddered, I thought it was an earthquake,” said Bilal, a man in his 60s, in the downtown area.

Like others, he blamed the political elite. “We already have a financial economic crisis, people are hungry and, these thieves and looters, will they compensate for the losses? Who will compensate for those who lost their loved ones,” he said.

Offers of international support poured in. Gulf Arab states, who in the past were major financi

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