Hundreds are feared killed or injured following a massive explosion that rocked the Lebanese capital Beirut and destroyed buildings many kilometres away from the blast site.
The explosion occurred in the city’s port area on Tuesday afternoon, sending a huge shockwave across the city which destroyed warehouses, homes and office blocks and sent dazed residents pouring on the streets for help.
Footage from the city shows people being rushed to hospitals, which local TV said had been quickly overwhelmed with casualties.
Videos show a fire was raging at a warehouse before the huge explosion rippled through the capital. It was thought to have been triggered by a large fireworks stockpile, however security officials are still investigating and no formal cause has been identified.
“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,” one witness told Reuters.
Another witness described the scene as “total chaos”.
Local television footage showed severe damage to several houses and shops near the Port of Beirut, including the home of former prime minister Saad Hariri.
Debris filled the ground at the port and other footage showed damaged container trucks and vehicles.
Lebanon’s Health Minister Hamad Hasan said the explosion had caused a “very high number of injuries” and extensive damage, Lebanese LBC television channel quoted the minister as saying. Al Mayadeen television said hundreds were wounded.
The Lebanese Red Cross said they were at the scene of the explosion.
More to come
Bevan Shields is the Europe correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.