At least 135 dead, thousands injured following massive explosion in Beirut

BEIRUT — A massive explosion Tuesday at the port in the Lebanese capital of Beirut left at least 135 people dead and thousands of other people injured.

Here are the latest updates:

Update 8:05 a.m. EDT Aug. 6: Officials in Lebanon said at least 135 people died and more than 5,000 were killed in Tuesday’s explosion, The Associated Press is reporting.

On Thursday, Britian pledged to send a Royal Navy ship to Lebanon to help with recovery efforts, while China vowed to send a medical team and supplies, according to the report. French President Emmanuel Macron also is scheduled to arrive in Beirut on Thursday, the AP reported.

Additionally, Germany’s foreign minister confirmed that a German Embassy employee died in the explosion, according to the AP.

Read more here.

Update 10:41 p.m. EDT Aug. 5: Customs officials in Lebanon wrote letters to the nation’s courts at least six times over a three-year period, seeking advice on how to dispose of the 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse in Beirut, The New York Times reported. The combustible material arrived on a Russian-owned cargo ship more than six years ago, the newspaper reported. Officials wrote to the courts from 2014 to 2017 but never received a response, according to public records cited by Salim Aoun, a Lebanese lawmaker.

Solutions proposed by custom officials included exporting the ammonium nitrate or donating it to the Lebanese Army, the Times reported.

“We were told the cargo would be sold in an auction,” Hassan Koraytem, the general manager of Beirut port, told the newspaper. “But the auction never happened and the judiciary never acted.”

At least 135 people have been reported dead and thousands more have been injured by the blast that rocked Beirut on Tuesday.

Update 11 a.m. EDT Aug. 5: The Lebanese government has declared a two-week state of emergency, effectively giving the military full powers during this time after a massive explosion devastated the capital, Beirut.

The government announced the measure during a Cabinet meeting Wednesday.

It said it was putting an unspecified number of Beirut port officials under house arrest pending an investigation into how 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate came to be stored at the port for years.

The move comes amid speculation that negligence was to blame for the explosion that killed more than 100 people

Update 10:15 a.m. EDT Aug. 5: Officials said six Turkish citizens are among the thousands of people injured Tuesday when a massive explosion rocked Beirut.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said in a tweet Wednesday that one Turkish citizen underwent surgery after the blast while five others were “slightly wounded.”

Turkey is sending search and rescue teams along with emergency medical personnel to aid Lebanon in the aftermath of Tuesday’s explosion.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said Turkey is also preparing a field hospital, humanitarian aid, medical equipment and medicine for use in Beirut.

“We will continue giving Lebanon all support with the hope that these difficult days will be overcome as soon as possible through solidarity and cooperation,” the spokesman said.

Update 5:46 a.m. EDT Aug. 5: At least 100 people died and 4,000 were injured in Tuesday’s blasts in Beirut, Lebanese Red Cross officials said Wednesday.

According to The Associated Press, Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi said the explosion was caused by the detonation of more than 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse.

There is no evidence that the blast was caused by a terrorist attack, the news agency reported.

Read more here.

Update 7:27 p.m. EDT Aug. 4: Officials in Lebanon’s health ministry said that at least 78 people died and 4,000 suffered injuries in the explosions and fire, The New York Times reported.

The secretary-general of the Kataeb political party, Nizar Najarian, was killed in the blast, the newspaper reported.

The cause of the early evening explosions remains unclear, but senior officials in Lebanon said it appeared that flammable materials stored in a warehouse had caught fire, The Washington Post reported. The first explosion ignited the fire, and they were followed by two secondary blasts that sent a large mushroom cloud of pink and yellow smoke over Beirut, the newspaper reported.

Update 5 p.m. EDT Aug. 4: More than 60 people were killed and more than 3,000 injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said.

Health Minister Hassan Hamad said the preliminary toll was more than 60 dead and more than 3,000 wounded. Emergency teams streamed in from across Lebanon to help, and the injured had to be taken to hospitals outside the capital. Hamad added that hospitals were barely coping and offers of aid were pouring in from Arab states and friends of Lebanon.

Some of those injured lay on the ground at the port, Associated Press staff at the scene said. A civil defense official said there were still bodies inside the port, many under debris.

Hours later, ambulances still carried away the wounded as army helicopters helped battle fires raging at the port.

Miles away, building facades were shredded, balconies were knocked down and windows shattered. Streets were covered with glass and bricks and lined with wrecked cars. Motorcyclists picked their way through traffic, carrying the injured.

Outside the St. George University Hospital in Beirut’s Achrafieh neighborhood, people with various injuries arrived in ambulances, in cars and on foot. The explosion had caused major damage inside the building and knocked out the electricity at the hospital. Dozens of injured were being treated on the spot on the street outside, on stretchers and wheelchairs.

Several of Beirut’s hospitals were damaged in the blast. Roum Hospital put out a call for people to bring it spare generators to keep its electricity going as it evacuated patients because of heavy damage.

The cause of the blast, which sparked fires, overturned cars and blew out windows and doors, is still not immediately known.

Original report: At least two explosions in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, flattened much of the city’s main port area, damaging buildings and blowing out windows as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the city.

Lebanese Red Cross official Georges Kettaneh said there were dead and wounded, but did not have an exact figure, just saying there were hundreds of casualties.

A civil defense official on the scene of the blast said his men had evacuated dozens to hospitals and that there were still bodies inside the port, many of them under debris.

The cause of the blast was not immediately known.

The afternoon blast shook several parts of the capital and thick smoke billowed from the city center. Residents reported windows being blown out and a false ceilings dropping.

Dozens of ambulances ferried the injured from the port area, where the wounded lay on the ground, Associated Press staff at the scene said. Hospitals called for blood donations.

The explosion appeared to be centered around Beirut’s port and caused wide scale destruction and shattered windows miles away.

The head of the Lebanese Red Cross told local TV there were hundreds of casualties although many were superficial wounds from broken glass.

An Associated Press photographer near Beirut’s port witnessed people wounded on the ground and widespread destruction in central Beirut.

Video taken by residents showed a fire raging at the port, sending up a giant column of smoke, illuminated by flashes of what appear to be fireworks. Local TV stations reported that a fireworks warehouse was involved.

The fire then appeared to catch at a nearby building, triggering a more massive explosion, sending up a mushroom cloud and a shock wave over the city.

“It was like a nuclear explosion,” said Walid Abdo, a 43-year-old school teacher in the neighborhood of Gemayzeh near Beirut.

Videos from around the city captured the massive explosion and subsequent shockwave Tuesday evening.

Charbel Haj, who works at the port, said it started as small explosions like firecrackers, then the huge blast erupted and he was thrown off his feet. His clothes were torn.

Miles from the port, balconies were knocked down, windows shattered, streets were covered with glass and bricks and lined with wrecked cars. Motorcyclists picked their way through traffic, carrying the injured.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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