Cairo / The death toll from a massive explosion that rocked the port of Beirut has risen to 100, with more than 4,000 people injured, the Lebanese Red Cross said Wednesday.
The blast, caused by 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, occurred early on Tuesday evening.
“Up to now, some 4,000 people have been injured and 100 have lost their lives,” Red Cross spokesperson Rodney Eid told Efe. “Our teams continue search and rescue operations in the surrounding area.”
Lebanon’s prime minister, Hasan Diab, said at a meeting with the country’s president, Michel Aoun, that an unguarded shipment of ammonium nitrate caused the powerful explosion. The origin of the shipment is unknown.
Eyewitnesses told Efe that windows at homes located more than five kilometers (3.1 miles) from the explosion were shattered and that buildings suffered damage of varying degrees over a radius of more than two kilometers.
Images from the scene showed the explosion and a large mushroom-shaped cloud rising in the sky. Plumes of white- and reddish smoke were then seen in the sky above the port area.
Some members of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon were among those seriously injured by the explosion, which damaged one of the peacekeeping mission’s boats docked at the port.
Diab vowed Tuesday that those responsible for the deadly explosion will “pay the price.”
“This catastrophe will not go unpunished,” the head of government said in a brief televised address. “This is a promise to the martyrs and injured.”
Aoun announced that a crisis group had been formed to “face the consequences of the disaster and closely coordinate” with the authorities to manage the aftermath.
Wednesday is the first day of a period of national mourning in the country, where a state of emergency has been declared for two weeks.
At a meeting, Lebanon’s Supreme Defense Council declared the capital a “disaster city” and said that the president had approved the release of 100 billion Lebanese pounds in emergency funds from the 2020 budget.
The international community has already shown its solidarity with and pledged its support to Lebanon to deal with the crisis.
The Arab League, meanwhile, stressed the importance of investigating the incident to prevent it from “exacerbating” the crisis the country has been enduring, the worst in the country since the 1975-1990 civil war. EFE