A massive explosion in the Lebanese capital Beirut has killed at least 10 people, claimed hundreds of victims and has ravaged much of the city, including the home of the former prime minister.
The Future Movement Party confirmed that ex-Prime Minister Saad Hariri is safe, but the country's health minister said the explosions caused "a very high number of injuries" and enormous damage.
The government has yet to confirm the current death toll, but medical sources told Reuters that at least 10 people were killed by the explosion in the port, where warehouses are believed to contain explosives.
It has been reported that the Dieu Hospital Hotel in Beirut treats more than 500 wounded patients and is no longer able to accept them.
Dramatic shots show smoke rising from the port area just before a huge fireball explodes in the sky and covers the city with a thick mushroom cloud.
Witnesses have stressed the magnitude of the explosion that was reportedly heard in Cyprus and compared it to an "atomic bomb".
It wiped out the immediate surrounding buildings where firefighters were still fighting flames tonight, and even devastated areas that were miles away from the explosion.
General security chief Abbas Ibrahim said: "It appears that there is a warehouse that contains material that was confiscated years ago, and it appears that it was highly explosive material."
Lebanon's chief of internal security, Abbas Ibrahim, said the explosion occurred in an area that contained highly explosive materials – no explosives.
Lebanese Prime Minister Hasan Diab has declared Wednesday as the day of mourning, and President Michel Aoun has called for "urgent" talks on the Defense Council.
Experts pointed to fireworks that appear to be shooting out of smoke and said a combination of fireworks and highly flammable fertilizers could have triggered such an explosion.
A massive explosion shook Beirut this afternoon, destroyed buildings, and sent a giant fireball into the sky
Dramatic shots show smoke rising from the port area just before a huge fireball explodes in the sky and covers the city with a thick mushroom cloud
It devastated the immediately surrounding buildings, where firefighters were still fighting flames tonight, and even devastated areas that were miles away from the explosion site
Israel has denied any involvement under escalating tensions with the Hezbollah militant group along the country's southern border.
It only takes a few days for a United Nations tribunal to rule on the murder of the country's former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, Saad's father.
The country in the Middle East is in the worst economic and financial crisis in decades and has seen demonstrations.
Miles from the explosion site – which the people of Cyprus claimed to have heard – balconies were torn down, the ceiling collapsed, and the windows broken.
Beirut's main airport – six miles from the port – has been reportedly damaged by the explosion. Pictures show parts of the collapsed ceiling.
The city's governor told journalists that he did not know the cause of the explosion and said he had never seen such destruction. He compared the sobering scenes to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were wiped out by atomic bombs in World War II.
Local Fady Roumieh was standing in the parking lot of ABC Mall Achrafieh, about 2 km east of the explosion when the explosion took place.
He said, "It was like an atomic bomb. The damage is so widespread and serious across the city. Some buildings up to 2 km have partially collapsed. It's like a war zone. The damage is extreme. Not a single glass window intact. & # 39;
A witness said: “I saw a fireball and smoke rising over Beirut. People screamed and ran and bled. Balconies were blown away from buildings. Glass in high-rise buildings shattered and fell onto the street. & # 39;
A general view of the port area with smoke from an area of a large explosion, with damage and debris after a large explosion, shook the port area of Beirut
Shattering scenes show injuries emerging from the rubble sprayed over the streets of Beirut
An injured man is seen in Beirut after the explosion
A man reacts to an explosion in the port of the Lebanese capital Beirut on August 4
Pictures show the scene of an explosion in the port of the Lebanese capital Beirut that devastated the surrounding buildings
Firefighters spray water on a fire after an explosion was heard in Beirut
Another witness said she saw heavy gray smoke near the port area, then heard an explosion and saw flames of fire and black smoke.
They said: “All the windows in the city center are broken and wounded people are walking around. It is total chaos. & # 39;
"Buildings tremble," tweeted one resident, while another wrote: "An enormous, deafening explosion just swallowed up Beirut. I heard it from a distance.
Online footage from a Lebanese newspaper office showed blown windows, scattered furniture, and torn-off interior panels.
It comes amidst political tensions in Lebanon with street demonstrations against the government's response to the worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
At the end of last year, investigators revealed what was actually a state-sponsored pyramid scheme operated by the central bank that borrowed from commercial banks at above-market interest rates to repay their debts and maintain the Lebanese pound's fixed exchange rate against the US dollar .
A cell phone image showing a general view of the port area with smoke from a large area, with damage and debris after a large explosion, shook Beirut's port area
People on the street in Beirue, which after the explosion is littered with rubble from damaged buildings
The loud explosion in the Beirut port area was felt across much of the city, and some parts of the city lost power
In January, mass protests against the allegations of corruption and a stalled economy led to the overthrow of Prime Minister Saad Hariri's government.
His predecessor, Independent Hassan Diab, cut the country's budget by $ 700 million and launched a financial bailout plan a month later.
However, Lebanon's problems persisted after the Covid 19 pandemic forced global borders to close, and protests returned after the Lebanese pound lost value despite a blockade in March.
Many companies have had to close, but as prices continue to rise with a devalued currency, some have trouble buying staple foods, and the Prime Minister warned that Lebanon is at risk of a "major food crisis".
Analysts believe the political sectarianism has prolonged the crisis, with the president, prime minister, and spokesman divided between the three largest cultural groups. Christians; Shiite Muslim; and Sunni Muslims.
Parliament is also halfway between Christian and Muslim members.
Since the country's government needs unity between the competing groups, external powers have been able to interfere in the country. For example, Iran supports the Hezbollah Shia militant movement.
Dramatic material on social media shows people screaming while a massive explosion shakes the Lebanese capital's waterfront
A wounded man walks near an explosion site in Beirut
A big explosion shook the Lebanese capital Beirut today. The explosion, which shook entire buildings and shattered glass, was felt in several parts of the city