Beirut: Two enormous explosions devastated Beirut’s port on Tuesday, leaving at least 73 people dead and thousands injured, shaking distant buildings and spreading panic and chaos across the Lebanese capital.
The second blast sent an enormous orange fireball into the sky, flattened the harbourside and drove a tornado-like shockwave through the city, shattering windows kilometres (miles) away.
Bloodied and dazed wounded stumbled among the debris, glass shards and burning buildings in central Beirut as the health ministry reported 73 dead and 3,700 injured and the minister bemoaned “a disaster in every sense of the word”.
A soldier at the port, where relatives of the missing scrambled for news of their loved ones, told AFP: “It’s a catastrophe inside. There are corpses on the ground. Ambulances are still lifting the dead.”
The blasts were heard throughout the small country and as far away as Nicosia on the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 240 kilometres (150 miles) away.
“It was like an atomic bomb,” said Makrouhie Yerganian, a retired schoolteacher in her mid-70s who has lived near the port for decades.
“I’ve experienced everything, but nothing like this before,” even during the country’s 1975-1990 civil war, she said. “All the buildings around here have collapsed.”
Her 91-year-old uncle, who lived in the same building, was wounded in the blast and later died.
The cause of the explosions was not immediately clear but a top official, General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim, said confiscated explosive materials had been stored at the city’s port.
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