70 killed in Beirut blasts as huge explosions rock Lebanon capital

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Twin explosions rocked the Lebanese capital, Beirut, on Tuesday, killing at least 70 people. Preliminary investigations, said an official, indicate that highly explosive materials stored in ward 12 were the cause of the blasts.

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab has called on brotherly and friendly countries to help his country. Those responsible for Beirut ‘catastrophe’ must be held to account, he added. “The warehouse in which the explosion occurred is dangerous and has been in existence for 6 years,” said Diab.

Earlier however, a witness told Gulf News that something fell from the sky before the explosions; others said they could hear aeroplanes before the blasts. “We heard a plane, then an explosion, like the ones we used to hear in 2006 Israeli war,” a Lebanese woman told Gulf News.

The blasts shattered windows of surrounding buildings and sending a huge plume of smoke billowing into the sky, AFP correspondents said.

What we are witnessing is a huge catastrophe,” the head of Lebanon’s Red Cross George Kettani told broadcaster Mayadeen. “There are victims and casualties everywhere – in all the streets and areas near and far from the explosion.”

Three hours after the blast, which struck shortly after 6 p.m. (1500 GMT), a fire still blazed in the port district, casting an orange glow across the night sky as helicopters hovered and ambulance sirens sounded across the capital.

Lebanese Public Security General, Abass Ibrahim after visiting the area of the explosion said: “The explosion is definitely not a fireworks depot, but a highly explosive material that was kept there. An investigation is on.” His statement came as some local media reported fireworks as being the reason for the incident.  Lebanon’s state news agency, NNA, and two security sources said the blast had occurred in the port area where there are warehouses housing explosives. It was not immediately clear what caused the blast or what kind of explosives were in the warehouses. it also reported countless casualties from the explosion.

A security source said victims were being taken for treatment outside the city because Beirut hospitals were already packed with wounded. Red Cross ambulances from the north and south of the country and the Bekaa valley to the east were called in to cope with the huge casualty toll.  Lebanese Prime minster declared a national day of mourning on Wednesday.  The afternoon blast shook several parts of the capital and thick smoke billowed from the city center. Residents reported windows being blown out and a false ceilings dropping.

Jordanian Seismological Observatory have said that Beirut explosion is equivalent to an earthquake of magnitude 4.5 on Richter scale.  “There are victims and casualties everywhere – in all the streets and areas near and far from the explosion.” Three hours after the blast, which struck shortly after 6 p.m. (1500 GMT), a fire still blazed in the port district, casting an orange glow across the night sky as helicopters hovered and ambulance sirens sounded across the capital.

Source :Gulf News

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