A massive explosion rocked the city of Beirut today, as seen in videos posted across social media. BBC reported that the blast happened in the port area of the city and that authorities “fear many casualties.” The cause of the explosion has not been confirmed.
Lebanon’s health minister told reporters there were many injuries and extensive damage as result, but exact casualty numbers are not yet known.
The incident occurred as Lebanon is in the midst of civil unrest and an economic crisis created in part by the COVID-19 pandemic. It also happened just days before the verdict is set to be delivered in the case of former prime minister Rafik Harir’s 2005 death, one of the country’s most high-profile criminal cases in recent history.
While unconfirmed, BBC also mentioned reports of a second explosion at the family residence of Harir.
The city’s port area where the explosion went off is full of warehouses and manufacturing plants, including a fireworks depot. While the origin has not yet been confirmed, video footage from the scene shows what appear to be firecrackers going off in the moments before the large explosion.
In a video making its way around Twitter, thick, gray smoke is seen billowing before a fiery explosion erupts. Almost immediately came a massive, ominous looking mushroom cloud before the camera turns away in a panic. Screams can be heard in the background of the clip.
Sky News‘ Middle East editor Zain Ja’far was in the Lebanon capital at the time and explained that the explosion caused several nearby windows to cave in.
Footage from the massive explosion in Beirut Port, Lebanon pic.twitter.com/bdvzrS05Qf
— Beirut Today (@bey_today) August 4, 2020
Further eyewitness videos show vehicles toppled and burnt out as well as buildings with severe structural damage to them, including at least one hospital.
Scenes from local media coverage in Beirut included people buried beneath rubble along with a witness describing the sound as deafening.
Jenan Moussa, reporter for Al-Aan TV, shared on Twitter that the blast could heard from Cyprus, located approximately 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Beirut. She also reported that Beirut’s governor called the blast a “‘national disaster akin to Hiroshima.”
Moussa then herself described the incident as “unprecedented” and urged local residents to donate blood if they are able, citing the need at local hospitals.
The incident occurred at a volatile time for the Middle Eastern country, which is currently experiencing political tension and street demonstrations stemming from the government’s handling of coronavirus and the economic crisis they are facing. As previously reported by The Inquisitr, this is the second notable explosion the region has seen since a car bomb killed at least 17 people in Afghanistan last week.