Over 70 killed in Beirut blast; PM Hassan Diab says guilty ‘will pay price’

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BEIRUT: 70 people were killed and over 2,000 injured following a powerful explosion that ripped through Lebanon’s capital Beirut on Tuesday, local media reported.

The country’s health minister Hamad Hassan said that the death toll in the blast has reached 73 and that 2,750 are wounded in the massive explosion, which shattered buildings and caused widespread damage.

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Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab in a televised address to the county warned that those who were responsible for the devastating catastrophe will be held accountable and not go unpunished.

“What happened today will not fly by without accountability. All those responsible for this catastrophe will pay the price. This is a promise I make to martyrs and injured. This is a national commitment,” Diab said.

Lebanon’s interior minister, Mohammed Fahmi was quoted by Al Jazeera saying the explosion was apparently caused by ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse at the port.

National News Agency (NNA) of Lebanon also reported that a warehouse at the Beirut Port caught fire and lead to major explosions, which reverberated in the capital and the suburbs and left behind great damages to the surrounding buildings and a considerable number of wounded.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab in his address said that currently his government was focussed on handling the disaster and treating the wounded but said facts will soon be put out about the “dangerous warehouse that has been in existence for six years, since 2014.”

“We will cooperate at the level of responsibility, and I urge you to unite to heal the nation’s wounds,” the Prime Minister said.

Explosions were heard over several kilometres away from the blast, which resulted in a large mushroom cloud above the country and blast was even felt as far away in Cyprus, as per reports. The blast was caught on video by several people and dramatic footage of the explosion was shared on social media, eliciting reactions from users across the world.

Among the buildings which suffered damage, including headquarters of Lebanon’s prime minister as well as the Baabda Palace, the residence of the president of Lebanon.
With hundreds of people hospitalised following the massive blast, hospitals in Beirut was suffering from overcrowding, the health minister Hassan said.

“Hospitals in Beirut are overcrowded. The injured should be taken to hospitals outside of Beirut,” Hassan said, as quoted by the Al Jazeera broadcaster.

Leaders from across the world expressed their condolences over the incident.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his condolences to Lebanese President Michel Aoun in connection with the casualties and massive destruction caused by the explosion, the Kremlin said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif stated that his country is fully prepared to render assistance in anyway necessary.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the great and resilient people of Lebanon. As always, Iran is fully prepared to render assistance in any way necessary. Stay strong, Lebanon,” Zarif tweeted.

Sputnik reported that according to reports earlier in the day that the explosion began as a short bang, five minutes later white and black smoke emerged and then a powerful blast followed, launching a heavy stream of red smoke into the air.