Death toll from Beirut blast tops 25, thousands injured

The cause of the blast, which sparked fires, overturned cars and blew out windows and doors, was not immediately known.

By Associated Press

Hours after a massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, ambulances still carried away the wounded as army helicopters helped battle fires raging at the port.

At least 25 people were killed and 2,500 injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said. Much of the port was flattened, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky.

The cause of the blast, which sparked fires, overturned cars and blew out windows and doors, was not immediately known.

Abbas Ibrahim, chief of Lebanese General Security, said it might have been caused by highly explosive material that was confiscated from a ship some time ago and stored at the port. Local television channel LBC said the material was sodium nitrate.

Witnesses reported seeing a strange orange-colored cloud over the site after the explosion. Orange clouds of toxic nitrogen dioxide gas often accompany an explosion involving nitrates.

‘Beirut is a Devastated City’

Beirut’s governor, Marwan Abboud, broke into tears as he toured the site, saying, “Beirut is a devastated city.”

The fire then appeared to catch at a nearby building, triggering a more massive explosion, sending up a mushroom cloud and a shock wave.

Charbel Haj, who works at the port, said it started as small explosions like firecrackers. Then, he said, he was thrown off his feet by the huge blast. His clothes were torn.

Miles from the port, building facades were shredded, balconies were knocked down and windows shattered. Streets were covered with glass and bricks and lined with wrecked cars. Motorcyclists picked their way through traffic, carrying the injured.

One woman covered in blood from the waist up walked down a trashed street while talking furiously on her phone. On another street, a woman with a bloodied face looked distraught, staggering through traffic with two friends at her side.

“This country is cursed,” a young man passing by muttered.

The blast came at a time when Lebanon, which is largely controlled by the Iran-backed Islamic terror group Hezbollah, is facing economic collapse from the financial crisis and the coronavirus restrictions.

Many have lost jobs, while the worth of their savings has evaporated as the currency has plunged in value against the dollar. The result has thrown many into poverty.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah continues to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on arms and training in its quest to destroy Israel.

“This is a catastrophe we have on our hands,” said one doctor, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make press statements.