A massive explosion has devastated large parts of Beirut, injuring scores of people and damaging buildings across the Lebanese capital. The cause of the blast is unclear, but video footage posted on social media showed a fire at Beirut’s port that appeared to cause a second explosion that sent vast columns of smoke across the city. There are industrial and military facilities in the area, as well as a grain silo. At least 10 people were killed, according to reports from the Reuters news agency citing security sources. Hamad Hassan, the health minister said there was “a very high number of injuries”, LBC, a local television station, reported. Prime minister Hassan Diab declared Wednesday a national day of mourning, MTV channel reported, and Beirut governor Marwan Abboud likened the blast to a disaster zone, according to the Al Arabiya channel.
Neighbourhoods in the immediate area of the blast in north Beirut have been devastated, video footage shows, with balconies collapsed and cars destroyed. Local TV stations reported that rescuers were trying to retrieve people trapped under rubble, as emergency sirens howled through the city. The Lebanese Red Cross said that its phone lines were jammed with emergency calls as 30 teams responded to the incident and called for urgent blood donations. Photographs and videos posted on social media showed injured people streaming into hospitals, some in east Beirut neighbourhoods far from the site of the blast.
As the shockwave from the blast smashed windows and caved in doors within a radius of several miles, the boom was heard in the mountains and in coastal cities at least 40km away. Local reports said the state energy company’s tower-block headquarters in east Beirut had been badly damaged. Michel Aoun, Lebanon’s president, has called for an emergency meeting of the higher defence council on Tuesday evening. The explosion comes in the same week that a jury will deliver a verdict on the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, who was killed in a massive car bomb in 2005 that also shook the city. The blast comes as Lebanon is reeling from its worst economic crisis in decades and its hospitals are trying to cope with rising number of coronavirus cases.