More than 2,700 injured in Beirut explosion

Two huge explosions have rocked Beirut, killing at least 63 people, injuring thousands more, and sending an enormous blast wave across the city that shattered windows, knocked down doors and shook buildings.

Hundreds of homes were left uninhabitable after the blasts ripped through a section of the Lebanese capital’s port.

Thousands of people sought treatment in nearby hospitals, which were struggling to cope with the casualties. Cars were left strewn across the surrounding highway, and the blast was heard up to 80km away in the country’s north. The health minister, Hamad Hassan said at least 2,700 were injured.

“God help us from all these catastrophes,” said Mamdouh (25) a caterer who lost his job in June. “If this was an accident, as they’re saying, it’s the worst you could ever imagine. This was like a nuclear bomb. What have we done to deserve this?”

Hours after the explosion, which took place at 6.05pm (4.05pm Irish time), the cause remained unclear. Israel denied responsibility and said it had offered humanitarian and medical aid.

Initial reports suggested that a fireworks warehouse was involved. The Lebanese security chief, Abbas Ibrahim, later blamed combustible chemicals stored in a warehouse. The interior minister, Muhammad Fahmi, said ammonium nitrate had been among the materials stored and called for an investigation into how it ignited.

“Talk of fireworks is ridiculous,” said Mr Ibrahim. “There are no fireworks but rather highly explosive material, and I can’t foretell the investigations . . . it seems the explosion happened in a warehouse of highly explosive material that was confiscated years ago.”

Lebanon’s prime minister, Hassan Diab, declared Wednesday a national day of mourning and vowed accountability for those responsible, claiming there had been warnings about hazardous material stored at the port going back to 2014.

So powerful was the force of the blast that it even rattled buildings in west and south Beirut. It happened three days before the verdict is due in an international tribunal trial of four men accused of blowing up a former Lebanese prime minister 15 years ago.

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