Sat, 26 Sep 2020

Beirut residents woke up to scenes of devastation this Wednesday, following a massive explosion at the port that killed at least 100 people and injured thousands more. Lebanese President Michel Aoun has called for an emergency cabinet meeting.

Smoke was still rising from the port on Wednesday morning as Lebanese rescue workers attempted to dig out survivors from the charred ruins.

At least 100 people have been confirmed killed and more than 4,000 wounded after a powerful explosion ripped through a port warehouse on Tuesday, sending shockwaves across the city.

Major downtown streets were littered with debris and damaged vehicles, and building facades were blown out.

It remains unclear what caused the bast. President Michel Aoun said that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, used in fertilisers and bombs, had been stored for six years at the port without safety measures, and he said this was "unacceptable".

Memories of war

The blast was the most powerful explosion ever seen in the city, which still has memories of the 1975-1990 civil war and its aftermath, when Lebanon endured heavy shelling.

"It was a real horror show. I haven't seen anything like that since the days of the (civil) war," said Marwan Ramadan, who was about 500 metres from the port and was knocked off his feet by the force of the explosion.

An official with the Lebanese Red Cross said the death toll could rise further and that aid organisation was coordinating with the health ministry for morgues to take victims because hospitals were overwhelmed.

In the Lebanese press, headlines such as "L'Apocalypse," and "The Great Collapse", showing images of the destroyed port captured the mood of the moment.

Country in crisis

The country was already on the brink of fiscal collapse amid a severe economic crisis that has seen many Lebanese lose their jobs.

Tuesday's blast has now destroyed dozens of homes, meaning large numbers of people could be left homeless.

Lebanon's hospitals are also confronting a surge in coronavirus cases, and there are concerns the virus could spread further as people flood into hospitals.

France and other countries have offered Lebanon assistance.

Meanwhile, President Michel Aoun has called for an emergency cabinet meeting this Wednesday and said a two-week state of emergency should be declared.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab for his part, called for Wednesday to be a day of mourning.

Orginally published on RFI

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