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Explosion at ammonium nitrate warehouse in Lebanon: 4,000 injured, nearly 80 died

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09:31 | 05/08/2020

A massive explosion rocked Beirut with the force of an earthquake, followed by a shock wave that blew out windows and caused widespread damage across the Lebanese capital. At least 78 people were killed and more than 4,000 wounded, The Guardian reported. 

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According to CNN, A large explosion rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Tuesday at 6:07 p.m. after a major fire broke out near the city's port, killing at least 78 people and injuring 4,000.

What caused the blast: Initially, there were conflicting reports on what caused the explosion. It was earlier blamed on a major fire at a warehouse for firecrackers near the port.

What's it like on the ground: In a word, apocalyptic. The blast tore through the city and wreaked havoc on nearly all of Beirut's quarters. The shockwave from the explosion was visible in footage of the incident.

Buildings as far away as 10 km (6 miles) from the site of the explosion were damaged. Streets were filled with shattered glass.

One witness told CNN the port was " totally destroyed."

Emergency wards were inundated with the injured, while the Lebanese Red Cross implored the public on Twitter for blood donations to help the wounded. One of Beirut's major hospitals, Hotel Dieu, received around 400 injured patients, an employee told CNN.

explosion at ammonium nitrate warehouse in lebanon 4000 injured nearly 80 died
A view of destruction in the Gemmayzeh area in the center of Lebanon's capital Beirut, following a massive explosion on August 4. AFP/Getty Images

What's the government doing: Lebanese President Michel Aoun ordered military patrols in the city and vowed to investigate. Prime Minister Diab said the storage of ammonium nitrate at a warehouse was "unacceptable" and would be investigated.

"I will not rest until we find those responsible for what happened, hold them accountable, and impose maximum punishment," he said.

Thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate were stored at a Beirut warehouse for 6 years

Lebanon's Prime Minister Hassan Diab later said in a statement that an estimated 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, an explosive, had been stored at a warehouse for the past six years. Lebanon's general security chief said the substance had been confiscated years ago.

explosion at ammonium nitrate warehouse in lebanon 4000 injured nearly 80 died
People stand on a pile of rubble in Beirut on August 4. APAImages/Shutterstock

What's it like on the ground: In a word, apocalyptic. The blast tore through the city and wreaked havoc on nearly all of Beirut's quarters. The shockwave from the explosion was visible in footage of the incident.

Buildings as far away as 10 km (6 miles) from the site of the explosion were damaged. Streets were filled with shattered glass.

One witness told CNN the port was " totally="" destroyed."

Emergency wards were inundated with the injured, while the Lebanese Red Cross implored the public on Twitter for blood donations to help the wounded. One of Beirut's major hospitals, Hotel Dieu, received around 400 injured patients, an employee told CNN

What's the government doing: Lebanese President Michel Aoun ordered military patrols in the city and vowed to investigate. Prime Minister Diab said the storage of ammonium nitrate at a warehouse was "unacceptable" and would be investigated.

"I will not rest until we find those responsible for what happened, hold them accountable, and impose maximum punishment," he said.

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that an estimated 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate had been stored at a warehouse in Beirut for six years, according to a statement published on the Republic of Lebanon Presidency website.

Ammonium nitrate is a key ingredient in both fertilizer and certain types of explosives. The substance has been used in terror attacks, including the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

It's still unclear what exactly caused the Tuesday explosion in Beirut that killed nearly 80 people. The blast was earlier blamed on a fire that broke out.

Lebanon's General Security Chief Abbas Ibrahim said earlier "highly explosive material" that had been confiscated years ago was being stored in the warehouse, which is just minutes' walk from popular shopping and nightlife districts.

Prime Minister Diab said in the statement it was "unacceptable" that so much explosive material was stored in a warehouse "without taking preventive measures while endangering the safety of citizens."

"I will not rest until we find those responsible for what happened, hold them accountable, and impose maximum punishment," he said.

Diab gave his condolences and wished for the speedy recovery of the wounded. He called for the formation of an investigation committee into the cause of the blast, which should release its results within a maximum of five days, added the statement.

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