A huge explosion near the centre of Beirut killed at least 50 people, injured thousands and sent shockwaves across the Lebanese capital on Tuesday, shattering windows and causing apartment balconies to collapse.
Footage showed a huge plume of smoke billowing into the sky over the Port of Beirut, as well as severe damage to buildings and shops in the area, including the home of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Windows shattered in buildings across the city.
Abbas Ibrahim, head of the country’s General Security, said the explosion wasn’t due to fireworks as reported earlier by the local media. He told reporters at the scene that the blast was due to highly explosive materials at the port depot.
The Lebanese Red Cross said it was at the scene of the explosion, and reported dozens of people injured.
People were seen rushing on foot and motorbikes, some with blood streaming over their faces, outside a Beirut hospital as medical staff tried to admit more severe cases
Debris filled the ground at the port and other footage showed damaged container trucks and vehicles.
Lebanon is undergoing its worst political and financial crisis in decades. The country’s foreign minister resigned on Monday, warning that conflicting interests threatened to turn the country into “a failed state.”
The government, backed by the militant Hezbollah group and its allies, has struggled to carry out reforms demanded by the international community as the price of a bailout. Talks with the International Monetary Fund for a $10 billion loan have stalled, and the government has appealed for aid from Gulf countries — primarily Kuwait, Iraq and Qatar.
The onetime benefactors have been wary about channeling funds into Lebanon as they’d done in the past, especially given Iran-backed Hezbollah’s growing influence in the country. Hezbollah is classified by Gulf states and the U.S. as a terrorist group.