A massive explosion ripped through central Beirut on Tuesday, killing dozens of people, injuring thousands and blowing out windows in buildings across the city.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, said that 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive material used in fertilizers and bombs, had been stored for six years at a port warehouse without safety measures, “endangering the safety of citizens,” according to a statement.
The Prime Minister called the storage of the material “unacceptable” and called for an investigation into the cause of the blast, with the results released within five days, the statement said.
Lebanon’s health minister said that the death toll from a massive explosion in the capital Beirut on Tuesday had reached 78, adding that nearly 4,000 people had been injured.
“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,” minister Hamad Hasan. “We are facing a real catastrophe and need time to assess the extent of damages.”
Initial reports blamed the explosion on a major fire at a warehouse for firecrackers near the port.
The causes of the blasts remained unknown, but Lebanese Interior Minister Mohammad Fahmi said that the explosive chemicals stored at Port of Beirut may have caused the explosions.
“Customs’ authorities must be asked about the reasons behind storing such chemical materials at Port of Beirut,” Fahmi said.
Many countries in the region expressed solidarity and sympathy with Lebanon over the explosions that have dealt a further blow to the country already plagued by the COVID-19 pandemic and an economic crisis.