At Least 100 Dead, Thousands Injured in Beirut Explosion

Lebanon will officially observe three days of mourning beginning Wednesday after a massive explosion in Beirut killed at least 100 people and injured at least 4,000 more on Tuesday, according to Lebanon’s state media, NNA.

“The disaster is unprecedented,” secretary general of the Lebanese Red Cross George Kettaneh told NNA.

The explosions were fueled by a 2,750-ton shipment of ammonium nitrate that had been stored in port since 2013, according to Prime Minister Hassan Diab.

Hundreds have been reported missing, raising fears that the death toll will be much larger than the current estimate, health minister Hamad Hassan said Wednesday.

Hassan said the health ministry is working on an emergency plan to set up field hospitals using equipment sent from Qatar, Iran, Kuwait, Oman and Jordan. Six to eight field hospitals would be ready “soon,” he said. Four of the city’s hospitals are out of service after sustaining damage in the blast and still-functional hospitals, which were already struggling to treat COVID patients, have been overwhelmed with casualties.

The prime minister vowed that he “will not rest until we find the person responsible for what happened, to hold him accountable and impose the most severe penalties.”

Meanwhile the head of Lebanon’s Customs Authority Badri Daher has said he repeatedly warned the country’s judiciary about dangerous substances stored at Beirut’s port. He sent six memos to judiciary officials warning about the substances, saying they posed a danger to the public, according to Lebanon’s LBC channel, which did not reveal when the memos were sent.

“Daher revealed that he asked to re-export these materials, but this matter did not happen,” LBC reported.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has called for a two-week state of emergency in the country and scheduled an emergency cabinet meeting.

The disaster hit as Lebanon continues to struggle with the coronavirus pandemic as well as hyperinflation and looming economic collapse.

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