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Dramatic footage of the aftermath shows smashed glass and debris scattered across a motorway in the Lebanon capital. The air is thick with smoke after a mushroom cloud rippled through several areas of the capital and wounded people. Lebanon’s Health Minister Hamad Hasan said the explosion in central Beirut on Tuesday caused a “very high number of injuries” and extensive damage.
The blast occurred in the city’s port area, where there were warehouses housing explosives, Lebanon’s state news agency NNA and two security sources said. A third security source said there were chemcials stored in the area.
Footage of the blast shared around by residents on social media showed a column of smoke rising from the port district followed by an enormous blast. Those who filming what initially appeared to be a big blaze where thrown backwards by the shock.
One witness told Reuters: “I saw a fireball and smoke billowing over Beirut. People were screaming and running, bleeding.
“Balconies were blown off buildings. Glass in high-rise buildings shattered and fell to the street.”
Another added: All the downtown area windows are smashed and there are wounded people walking around.
“It is total chaos.”
The governor of Beirut port told Sky News that a team of firefighters at the scene had “disappeared” after the explosion.
UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters it was not immediately clear what the cause was, and that there was no indication of any injuries to any UN personnel.
He said: “We do not have information about what has happened precisely, what has caused this, whether it’s accidental or manmade act.”
The US Pentagon also made a statement: “We are aware of the explosion and are concerned for the potential loss of life due to such a massive explosion.”
In Cyprus, an island lying west of Lebanon, residents reported two large bangs in quick succession. One resident of the capital Nicosia said his house shook, rattling shutters.
More to follow…
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