BEIRUT (Monitoring Desk): A massive explosion has shaken the Lebanese capital of Beirut, with a very high number of casualties expected.
A warehouse at the Beirut Port caught fire on Tuesday afternoon, triggering a huge explosion, Lebanon’s official NNA reported.
Several smaller explosions were heard before the bigger one occurred.
Abbas Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s General Security, said that “highly explosive materials” confiscated earlier had been stored at the site.
Footage shared on social media captured the moment of the bigger explosion, with a colossal shock wave seen traveling fast across several hundreds of meters and shrouding the area in thick smoke.
The blast left enormous material damage to the surrounding buildings and structures. But it was not immediately known how big an area was affected.
Lebanese LBC television channel quoted Lebanon’s Health Minister Hamad Hasan as saying that the blast had caused a “very high number of injuries” and “extensive damage.”
Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud said an unspecified number of firefighters dispatched to extinguish the initial fire had been killed in the explosion.
“As they were putting out the fire, the explosion took place and we’ve [lost them],” he said, breaking down on live TV.
After conflicting initial reports, Lebanese officials are now suggesting that the explosion was caused by highly explosive confiscated materials rather than fireworks.
Director-General of Lebanon Public Security Abbas Ibrahim says: “The storage area contained highly explosive materials confiscated years ago. To discuss fireworks is laughable.”
“I can’t predict what the investigation will reveal about the reasons for the explosion,” Ibrahim adds.
Local media reports the materials were seized off a ship and stored at a warehouse at the port.