A massive explosion in the Lebanese capital of Beirut has left at least 30 people dead and destroyed the home of the former prime minister.
The Future Movement Party confirmed that ex-PM Saad Hariri is safe, but the country’s health minister said the blasts had caused a ‘very high number of injuries’ and huge damage.
Medical sources told Reuters that at least 10 people been killed by the explosion, which appeared to follow a fire – the cause of which is unknown – at the port.
Lebanese Red Cross official Georges Kettaneh says there have been hundreds of casualties, both dead and wounded, although the government are yet to confirm the current toll.
Dramatic footage shows smoke billowing from the port area shortly before an enormous fireball explodes into the sky and blankets the city in a thick mushroom cloud.
Witnesses have stressed the sheer enormity of the blast, which was reportedly heard in Cyprus, and likened it to a ‘nuclear bomb’.
It lay waste to the immediate surrounding buildings, where firefighters were still battling flames this evening, and even wreaked havoc on districts miles away from the blast site.
Lebanon’s internal security chief Abbas Ibrahim said that the explosion occurred in a section housing highly-explosive materials – not explosives.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hasan Diab has declared Wednesday a day of mourning, and President Michel Aoun called for ‘urgent’ defence council talks.
Pointing to what appears to be fireworks shooting out of the smoke, experts said a combination of fireworks and highly flammable fertiliser could have sparked such an explosion.