A massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the city’s port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. More than 70 people were killed and 3,000 injured, with bodies buried in the rubble.
The blast struck with the force of a 3.5 magnitude earthquake, according to Germany’s geosciences center GFZ, and it was heard and felt as far away as Cyprus more than 200 kilometres across the Mediterranean.
Commenting on the blast, US President Donald Trump said military generals have told him that they think the explosion was likely a bomb.
The explosion came amid ongoing tensions between Israel and the Hezbollah military group on Lebanon’s southern border. Many residents reported hearing planes overhead just before the blast, fueling rumors of an attack, though Israeli military overflights are common. An Israeli government official told news agency AP Israel had nothing to do with the blast.
The sudden devastation overwhelmed a country already struggling with both the coronavirus pandemic and an economic crisis. For hours afterward, ambulances rushing in from around Lebanon carried away the wounded. Hospitals quickly filled beyond capacity, pleading for blood supplies, and generators to keep their lights on.
For blocks around the port, where the explosion took place, bloodied residents staggered through streets lined with overturned cars and littered with rubble from shattered buildings. Windows and doors were blown out kilometres away. Army helicopters helped battle fires raging at Beirut’s port.