Devastating explosion rocks Beirut killing more than 70 people & injuring thousands

Devastating explosion rocks Beirut killing more than 70 people & injuring thousands

Beirut

Lebanon’s capital city Beirut has been devastated by a massive explosion that has killed at least 70 people, including one Australian, and injured nearly 4,000.

Eyewitness footage of the explosion on Tuesday has circulated on social media, showing a large fire and subsequent blast in the city’s port area. The shockwave has destroyed nearby neighbourhoods, flattening entire buildings, overturning vehicles, and shattering windows kilometres away.

Lebanese authorities have linked the explosion to some 2750 tonnes of confiscated ammonium nitrate that had been stored in a warehouse at Beirut’s port for up to six years.

Officials said they expect the death toll to rise further as emergency workers dig through rubble recovering bodies.

According to Lebanon’s Red Cross, many of Beirut’s hospitals are overwhelmed and filled beyond capacity. Healthcare workers are treating people in car parks or on the street, and are using generators to keep lights on.

Lebanon’s Health Minister Hamad Hasan told Reuters there are still many people missing.

“There are many people missing until now. People are asking the emergency department about their loved ones and it is difficult to search at night because there is no electricity. We are facing a real catastrophe and need time to assess the extent of damages,” Hassan said.

Lebanon is home to six million people, and is currently in the grips of its worst economic crisis in decades. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the country was already teetering on the edge of economic collapse. With its national currency collapsing, Lebanon has seen businesses shut, food shortages and frequent rolling blackouts. COVID-19 has exacerbated the situation, leaving the country’s poorest vulnerable to poverty.

The explosion also comes as tensions are rising between Israel and the militant Hezbollah group.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed on Wednesday morning that one Australian has died in the blast. The Australian embassy in Beirut was also “significantly impacted”.

“I can confirm there has been one Australian that has been killed,” Morrison said.

“Which is terribly devastating and, obviously, we can’t give more details about the specifics at this time but our sympathies to all of the people in Lebanon.

“There is such a large Lebanese Australian community here and they would be worried about loved ones. The details will hopefully be provided soon.”

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