Rescue workers continue to dig through rubble to search for survivors in Beirut, the Lebanese capital, where an explosion on Tuesday evening killed more than 100 people and injured thousands more.
Lebanon’s health minister, Hamad Hasan, said, “We need everything to hospitalize the victims, and there is an acute shortage of everything.”
The New York Times reports that the blast was so powerful it could be felt more than 240 kilometres away, in Cyprus. Entire sections of the city near the port of Beirut were leveled to debris. The NYT reports that the waterfront neighborhood normally full of restaurants and entertainment venues was flattened.
The death toll from the explosion is expected to rise further. An untold number of people are still missing. Electricity has been knocked out in most of Beirut, which had further hindered emergency workers last night.
The NYT reports that the city’s hospitals have been overwhelmed with more than 4000 people injured. The head of Lebanon’s Red Cross George Kettani said, “What we are witnessing is a huge catastrophe, there are victims and casualties everywhere.” According to the NYT, at least four large hospitals in Beirut were so severely damaged that they were unable to admit patients. Health care workers were injured and killed in the blast, with four nurses having died and five doctors having been wounded at one hospital. A warehouse storing the country’s vaccines was believed to have been razed to the ground. Prime Minister Hassan Diab said, “As head of the government, I will not relax until we find the responsible party for what happened, hold it accountable and apply the most serious punishments against it.”
According to the NYT 2,750 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate had been stored in a depot at the center of the explosion. Major General Abbas Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s general security service, said that “highly explosive materials” which had been seized by the government years ago, were stored near the blast site. He said while it was possible the explosives had been intentionally set off, there should be no speculation “ahead of the investigation” that the blast had been an act of terrorism.
Umm Muhammed Umar