Thousands of people were wounded and more than 30 killed during multiple explosions in Downtown Beirut Tuesday, Lebanon’s health minister said.
Buildings several kilometers away suffered material damage, with Cyprus even feeling the blast, and the explosions were heard over 20 kilometers away from Beirut.
It remains unclear what caused the explosions, which resulted in a large mushroom cloud above the country. Lebanon’s head of General Security Abbas Ibrahim told reporters that “highly explosive materials” that were confiscated “a while back” were stored at the site of the explosion.
Initial reports and eyewitness accounts suggest that there were two separate explosions. Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud said firefighters were dispatched to put out a fire reported at the Port of Beirut. “As they were putting out the fire, an explosion took place and we’ve [lost them],” Abboud said on live TV as he broke down in tears.
One photographer told Al Arabiya English he saw “at least 15 dead bodies” at the Port of Beirut.
Lebanon is currently going through an unprecedented financial and economic crisis and an international tribunal is expected to issue its verdict on the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri later this week. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon has already indicted and accused Hezbollah members of carrying out the assassination.
One Beirut resident told Al Arabiya English that she heard a loud explosion, “and then we heard airplanes and an explosion. The whole house shook.”
Another resident north of Beirut told Al Arabiya English that he felt the ground tremble while he was shopping in Kaslik, north of Beirut.
US Congressman Darin LaHood tweeted about the explosion.