Two powerful explosions rocked the port of the country’s capital on Tuesday, leaving 50 dead and 2750 injured, according to a provisional report.
Of them powerful explosions successive shook Beirut this Tuesday at the end of the afternoon, sowing panic and causing a huge mushroom of smoke in the sky of the Lebanese capital. The powerful blasts that rocked the port of the capital left 50 dead and 2,750 injured, according to a provisional report established in the early evening. The express takes stock of the situation.
- A first explosion followed by another
Videos posted on social networks showed an initial explosion followed by another causing the gigantic cloud of smoke. The blasts rocked buildings and smashed windows for miles around. “It’s a disaster inside the port. There are corpses on the ground. Ambulances are taking the bodies,” said a soldier near the port.
Local media broadcast images of people trapped under rubble, some covered in blood. “I felt like an earthquake and then after a huge explosion and the windows broke. I felt it was stronger than the explosion during the assassination of Rafic Hariri” in 2005, caused by a van loaded with explosives, said a Lebanese woman in downtown Beirut. Cars, with their inflated airbags, but also buses were abandoned in the middle of several roads. According to witnesses, the blasts were heard as far as the coastal town of Larnaca, Cyprus, just over 200 km from the Lebanese coast.
A ship docked in front of the port of Beirut is in flames, after the violent explosions which ravaged the area on Tuesday, noted an AFP correspondent, without it being possible to determine whether there were on board any passengers. Several warehouses in the port have been devastated, while the floor is littered with broken glass. The port sector has been cordoned off by the security forces, which only allow civil defense, ambulances with screaming sirens and firefighters, according to AFP correspondents at the entrance to the port. In the vicinity, material damage and destruction is significant.
More than two hours after the explosion, the flames still enveloped the area. “We saw some smoke and then an explosion. Then the mushroom. The force of the explosion propelled us back into the apartment,” said a resident of Manssouriyeh, who has witnessed the scene since. its balcony, several kilometers from the port.
After the explosions, many residents, some of them injured, walked to hospitals in several districts of Beirut. In front of the Clémenceau medical center, dozens of wounded, including children, sometimes covered in blood, are waiting to be admitted. “It is a disaster in every sense of the word,” lamented the Minister of Health, Hamad Hassan, questioned by several televisions while visiting a hospital in the capital. “The hospitals in the capital are all full of wounded,” he said, calling for the other wounded to be transported to establishments in the suburbs.
- The origin of the explosions still unknown
The origin of the explosions is still unknown at this stage. In an initial reaction from an official, General Security Director General Abbas Ibrahim said the explosions may have been due to “explosives confiscated for years”, but added that the ongoing investigation should determine “the exact nature of the incident”. “It appears that there is a warehouse containing material confiscated for years, and it appears that it was very explosive material,” he said.
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The Lebanese Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, meanwhile assured that those responsible should “be held to account”. “What happened today will not pass without accountability. Those responsible for this disaster will have to pay the price,” hammered the head of government in a televised address. The Prime Minister also declared a day of national mourning on Wednesday “for the victims of the explosion in the port of Beirut”. Lebanese President Michel Aoun called on Tuesday evening an “urgent meeting” of the Supreme Defense Council, after the violent explosions, his services announced.
In Israel, a neighboring country which has carried out several military operations in recent decades against Lebanon, a government official told AFP on condition of anonymity that his country had “nothing to do with the incident”.
- France ready to provide “assistance” if necessary
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Tuesday evening that France was on “Lebanon’s side” and ready to help it. “France stands and will always stand by the side of Lebanon and the Lebanese. It is ready to provide assistance according to the needs expressed by the Lebanese authorities,” he said on Twitter. “While Beirut has just been hit hard by explosions, France offers its condolences to the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to the many injured,” he added.
Emmanuel Macron for his part “expressed his fraternal solidarity with the Lebanese after the explosion which caused so many victims and damage this evening in Beirut”. “France stands alongside Lebanon. Always. French aid and resources are being delivered on the spot,” he wrote on Twitter.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also expressed his country’s support for the “resilient” people of Lebanon. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the great and resilient people of Lebanon,” the Iranian minister tweeted.
Israel also offered on Tuesday evening humanitarian aid to Lebanon, a neighboring country with which it is technically at war. “Israel has turned to Lebanon through international security and political contacts to offer humanitarian and medical aid to the Lebanese government,” the Israeli foreign and defense ministries said in a statement.
Hassan Diab called on “friendly countries” to help Lebanon. “I appeal urgently to all friendly countries and brotherly countries who love Lebanon to stand by its side and help us heal our deep wounds,” said the Lebanese Prime Minister.