Survivors of a catastrophic explosion that devastated the Lebanese capital Beirut last night searched for victims in the remains of their city when the death toll exceeded 100 and is expected to increase with more than 4,000 wounded.
The city, once known as the Middle East Paris, resembled a huge junkyard when the sun rose on Wednesday – hardly a building was left unscathed by an explosion caused by 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate and with a fifth the force of the atom bomb exploded, the Hiroshima leveled.
Street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood, buildings were left without roofs or windows, the interiors of which were destroyed by the blast of the explosion – probably triggered when a welder caused a fire in the harbor, which in turn set fire to a warehouse that exposed chemicals to six Years had been confiscated by a ship.
After a night of shock and awe, the full extent of the disaster that Lebanon faces – a country already in the midst of an economic crisis – was exposed at dawn as the hospitals struggled with the influx of wounded and menace had accusations hanging in the air along with smoke from still burning fires.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab vowed that those responsible would "pay the price" when he declared the two-week state of emergency to deal with the crisis, even though the head of the Lebanese customs agency pointed a finger at the government – they knew of the danger but would refused permission to move the chemicals six times.
Diab also urged all world leaders and "Friends of Lebanon" to donate aid to the country, adding, "We are experiencing a real disaster."
The United States, Britain, France, the Gulf States, and even fierce rivals Israel have offered aid to the country, which is already struggling with two economic and corona virus crises.
President Michel Aoun declared grief for three days and announced that he would release 100 billion lira ($ 66 million) in emergency funds.
Lebanon has started the daunting task of cleaning up its capital, Beirut, after a devastating explosion tore up the city's port (pictured) and caused damage across the city after several tons of explosive chemicals were ignited
On Wednesday morning, fires were still burning in the destroyed port when the full extent of the devastation – in a country that was already in the midst of an economic crisis – was revealed
Survivors of the explosion that ravaged Beirut overnight raided the city's ruins for corpses on Wednesday, as the death toll increased to 100 with more than 4,000 wounded and hospitals struggled to cope
A campfire triggered by a welder ignited 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in the city's port, causing an explosion with a force equivalent to about a fifth of the atomic bomb used to level Hiroshima
Lebanese soldiers searched for bodies in the rubble of buildings, and the death toll is expected to continue to rise
A survivor who was dragged out of the rubble by Lebanese soldiers is hospitalized after the explosion that devastated Beirut
Survivors of the explosion walk through the city streets, looking for victims amid the ruins of their old neighborhoods
Wounds are treated after the explosion in a hospital that killed hundreds of victims in Beirut last night
A Lebanese army helicopter flies over the site of the explosion in Beirut's port area on Wednesday morning, while smoke is still rising from the rubble
Firefighters spent the night fighting in the harbor for flames that were still burning when the sun rose on Wednesday
A destroyed facade of a building can be seen after the explosion on Tuesday. Rescuers worked all night to find people in the midst of the devastation
Police and forensics work at the site of an explosion on Wednesday morning, and rescuers continue to search for survivors
France sends two planes with dozens of rescue workers, a mobile medical unit and 15 tons of relief supplies. French President Emmanuel Macron's office says the aid should help treat around 500 victims.
French peacekeepers based in Lebanon, a former French protectorate, have been helping since the explosions, Macron's office said.
According to the Royal Court, a military field hospital will be deployed with all the necessary staff. Egypt opened a field hospital in Beirut to take care of the wounded.
Trump calls deadly explosions in Beirut a "terrible attack"
President Donald Trump described fatal explosions as a "terrible attack" during a press conference on Tuesday, although there was no evidence that the explosions were intentional.
A series of massive explosions in the port area of the Lebanese capital shook the city this morning. At least 70 people were killed and more than 3,000 others injured.
"The United States is ready to help Lebanon," Trump said at a White House briefing. "We will be there to help. It looks like a terrible attack. & # 39;
When asked by a reporter whether Trump was certain that the explosion was in fact an attack, Trump confirmed this and insisted that he had met with some of our great generals, and they seem to feel that way that this was the case.
"You would know better than I would," the President continued. "You seem to be thinking … it was kind of a bomb, yes."
Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said Lebanon has accepted an offer to send a team of 37 rescue workers to Beirut with sniffer dogs. Denmark says it is ready to provide humanitarian aid to Lebanon and Greece is ready to help the Lebanese authorities "by whatever means possible".
In the meantime, President Donald Trump offered US aid to Lebanon last night before describing the explosion as a "terrible attack" and claiming that his generals claimed that it was caused by a "bomb" without providing evidence.
Robert Baer, a former CIA agent who has worked in the Middle East for years, held a more nuanced tone – the explosion appears to have been an accident, but he's not convinced that ammonium nitrate was the only cause.
He pointed to videos of what appeared to be fireworks that started off in a white cloud of smoke just before the main explosion that sent a red-brown column of smoke high into the sky.
Baer told CNN that these “firecrackers” were probably ammunition that had been kept as part of a weapons cache with military propellants.
"It was clearly a military explosive," he said. & # 39; It wasn't a fertilizer like ammonium nitrate. I'm pretty sure about it. & # 39;
But he added that if the blast was ever unveiled, it would probably take years to find out the truth of what caused the explosion, because "nobody will admit that they kept military explosives in the port."
Lebanon is effectively run by Hezbollah, an Iranian paramilitary group with a history of secrecy.
The U.S. Embassy in Beirut warned the city residents of reports of toxic gases released by the explosion and urged people to stay inside and wear masks, if available.
Thousands of people were made homeless by the explosion, which threatened a mass exodus from the Mediterranean that was already suffering from coronavirus, poor governance and an economic crisis.
"We have had a few dark days in Lebanon over the years, but that's different," said Rami Rifai, a 38-year-old engineer, with AFP from a hospital where his two daughters were treated after being treated despite cuts had been half a kilometer from the seat of the explosion.
& # 39; We already had the economic crisis, a government of thieves and corona viruses. I didn't think it could get worse, but now I don't know if this country can get up again. Everyone will try to go. I'll try to go, ”he said in a tearful voice.
When the explosion took place, firefighters were already on site to deal with the first fire. A safety source told Reuters today that the first fire was caused while welding a hole in a warehouse wall.
This fire spread and before firefighters could control it apparently detonated the ammonium nitrate.
An Israeli bomb expert suggested that fireworks may have been involved in the first fire.
Explosives Certification Expert Boaz Hayoun said, "Before the big explosion … in the middle of the fire you can see sparks, you can hear popcorn sounds and you can hear pipes. This is a very specific behavior of fireworks. & # 39;
After the second, more devastating explosion, images showed port buildings reduced to tangled masonry and devastated the main entry point into a country that relies on food imports to feed its more than six million people.
Charbel Haj, who works at the port, said the explosion started as small explosions like firecrackers before he was suddenly thrown off my feet by the tremendous explosion.
The explosion damaged the Roum Hospital, where people were asked to bring backup generators to keep the electricity running while the patients were being evacuated for serious damage.
A survivor of the Beirut bomb explosion is pulled out of the wreckage of a building torn apart and torn apart by a shock wave that echoed in the city
Soldiers dig picks through the rubble of buildings in Beirut on Wednesday, desperately looking for survivors
Lebanese soldiers are patrolling the streets of Beirut on Wednesday to keep peace after an explosion tore the city apart
After a massive explosion in the Lebanese capital, a woman is evacuated from the partially destroyed Beirut district in Mar Mikhael
A shock wave caused by the explosion hardly left a building in the city untouched. Damages were reported up to 24 km away
Men gather on a street near the destroyed port as they search the ruins of Beirut to save what they can
In front of St. George University Hospital in Beirut's Achrafieh district, people with various injuries arrived in ambulances, cars and on foot.
The explosion had caused great damage inside the building and cut off the electricity in the hospital. Dozens of injuries were treated outside on stretchers and wheelchairs.
The Red Cross in Lebanon said it drowned on calls to injured people, many of whom are still trapped in their homes.
Miles from the explosion site, balconies were torn down, the ceiling collapsed, and the windows broken.
Ammonium nitrate – the terrorist's bomb component
Ammonium nitrate – identified as the cause of the deadly explosion in Beirut – is an odorless crystalline substance that is used as a fertilizer and has been behind many industrial explosions and terrorist attacks for decades.
Two tons of it was used to produce the bomb in the 1995 Oklahoma City attack that destroyed a federal building and killed 168 people. The Taliban have often used them in improvised devices.
Experts say a fire in Beirut started after a welder's spark probably ignited the highly reactive chemical, causing an explosion of three million kilotons of TNT that killed at least 100 people and injured thousands more.
At the time of the explosion, 2,750 tons of the dangerous chemical were in the warehouse – that corresponds to an earthquake of 3.5.
Death and injury from the explosion would be, according to Dr. David Caldicott from the Australian National University entered in several phases.
& # 39; Primary injuries are explosion-related as a result of the overpressure wave that interacts with the victim's cavity. Lung injuries are often survived but are subsequently fatal and bowel injuries are common.
Secondary injuries are caused by debris flying around; effectively environmental shrapnel.
"Tertiary injuries are a result of the explosion and quaternary injuries from other characteristics such as inhalation."
In combination with heating oils, ammonium nitrate produces a powerful explosive that is widely used in the construction industry, but also by insurgent groups for the production of bombs.
In addition to the Oklahoma City bomb in the United States, it was used in a number of IRA attacks on Britain.
These include the Bishopsgate attack in April 1993, which left 40 injured and a 40-foot wide crater, and a bomb in Manchester in June 1996, in which 2,000 injured, but no deaths from a telephone warning an hour before the explosion.
In agriculture, ammonium nitrate fertilizer is applied in granular form and dissolves quickly under moisture, so that nitrogen can be released into the soil.
However, under normal storage conditions and without very high heat, ammonium nitrate is difficult to ignite, said Jimmie Oxley, chemistry professor at the University of Rhode Island.
"When you watch the video (of the explosion in Beirut), you saw the black smoke, you saw the red smoke – that was an incomplete reaction," she said.
"I'm assuming there was a small explosion that triggered the ammonium nitrate reaction – whether that small explosion was an accident or something that I haven't heard on purpose."
This is because ammonium nitrate is an oxidizing agent – it increases combustion and makes other substances ignite more easily, but is itself not very flammable.
For these reasons, there are generally very strict rules about where it can be stored: for example, it must be kept away from fuels and heat sources.
In fact, many countries in the European Union require that ammonium nitrate be added to calcium carbonate to produce calcium ammonium nitrate, which is safer.
In the United States, regulations were tightened significantly after the attack on Oklahoma City. Inspections are required if more than £ 2,000 of it is stored in one place.
Beirut's main airport, six miles from the port, has been reportedly damaged by the explosion. Pictures show parts of the collapsed ceiling.
Beirut's governor told journalists he did not know the cause of the explosion and said he had never seen such destruction before by comparing the sobering scenes to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
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.
& # 39; 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 soldier in the port, where relatives of the missing people searched for messages about their loved ones, said, “It's a disaster inside. There are corpses on the floor. Ambulances are still lifting the dead. & # 39;
A woman in her twenties shouted at security forces and asked about the fate of her brother, a port employee.
"His name is Jad, his eyes are green," she pleaded in vain when the officials refused to enter.
"It was like an atomic bomb," said Makrouhie Yerganian, a retired school teacher in her mid-70s who has lived near the port for decades.
"I've seen it all, but I've never experienced anything like it," she said even during the civil war from 1975 to 1990.
"All of the buildings here have collapsed."
A witness said: “I saw a fireball and smoke rising over Beirut. People screamed and ran and bled.
& # 39; Balconies were blown up by buildings. Glass in high-rise buildings shattered and fell onto the street. & # 39;
Rami Rifai, a 38-year-old engineer from a hospital where his two daughters were treated for cut injuries even though they were half a kilometer from the site of the explosion, said, “We have had some dark days in Lebanon over the years, but that is something else.
& # 39; We already had the economic crisis, a government of thieves and corona viruses. I didn't think it could get worse, but now I don't know if this country can get up again. Everyone will try to go. I'll try to go, ”he said in a tearful voice.
A resident of Mar Mikhail, one of the hardest hit neighborhoods, said she saw corpses in the middle of the street, apparently thrown by the explosion of balconies and roofs.
Long after the explosion, ambulance sirens sounded in the city and helicopters hovered over them.
The residents said glass had been broken in houses from Raouche on the western tip of the Mediterranean city to Rabieh (10 km east).
And on Cyprus, a Mediterranean island 180 km northwest of Beirut, residents reported that they heard two large ponies in quick succession.
A resident of Nicosia, the capital, said his home was trembling and rattling with shutters.
"We have no information about what exactly happened, what caused it, whether it's an accidental or artificial act," he said.
Condolences came from all over the world, and the Gulf States, the United States, and even the archenemy of Lebanon, Israel, offered to send help. France also promised to send help.
The explosion brought back memories of a civil war from 1975 to 1990 and its aftermath when the Lebanese suffered grenades, car bombs and Israeli air strikes. Some residents thought an earthquake had struck.
& # 39; The explosion knocked me out meters away. I was dazed and covered in blood. It brought back the vision of another explosion that I witnessed against the US Embassy in 1983, ”said Huda Baroudi, a designer from Beirut.
A drone captures the devastation caused by the explosion, including an aqueous crater (bottom left) that contained the warehouse with the previously explosive chemicals
An aerial view of the port before the explosion shows the now destroyed grain silo in the center with the warehouse with the explosives on the left – which has now completely disappeared
The footage shows a thick column of smoke rising from the harbor before an explosion sends a fireball into the sky
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
The scene of the explosion that devastated the capital of Beirut last night. Rescuers worked all night to look for survivors
People inspect a damaged gas station near an explosion site. Destroyed vehicles can also be seen and the nearby buildings all have broken windows
The explosion tore a huge hole in the middle of this building when a man inspects the front damage
Lebanese firefighters are working at the explosion site in Beirut harbor, Beirut, after the massive explosion last night
After the explosion in Beirut on Tuesday, a blood-stained injured man can be seen in Beirut
A man reacts to an explosion in the port of the Lebanese capital Beirut on August 4
Glass is broken by the explosion at the Cavalier Hotel in Beirut after the explosion
The explosion shook Lebanon in times of profound economic turmoil
The explosion takes place amid 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 .
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
UN chief Antonio Guterres expressed his "deepest condolences … after the terrible explosions in Beirut", which he said had also injured some United Nations personnel.
Boris Johnson offered to help the country affected by the crisis and tweeted: “The pictures and videos from Beirut tonight are shocking.
All my thoughts and prayers are with those who are involved in this terrible incident. Britain is ready to provide assistance in every possible way, including for the British nationals concerned. "
The UK Foreign Office has said that some of its embassy staff were not injured in a life-threatening manner in the explosion.
Union leader Sir Keir Starmer said in a tweet: “The images of explosions in Beirut are deeply worrying. Our thoughts are with those affected, the emergency services and the people in Lebanon. & # 39;
Offers of help also came from bitter rivals Israel, with whom it is still technically at war.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi have offered the Lebanese government medical and humanitarian aid and immediate emergency relief through international mediators on behalf of the State of Israel, ”the two ministries said in a joint statement.
Last week, Israel accused the Lebanese group Hezbollah of attempting to send armed men across the United Nations' Blue Line and said it had blamed the Lebanese government for a so-called "terrorist attack".
Hezbollah said all of the country's political powers must join forces to overcome the "painful disaster."
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that France was "next to Lebanon" and was ready to help and tweeted: "France is and will always stand by Lebanon and the Lebanese. It is ready to provide aid in accordance with those of to meet the needs of the Lebanese authorities.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted: "We are monitoring and ready to help the Lebanese people as they recover from this terrible tragedy."
The Iranian foreign minister has said he is ready to help Lebanon recover from the aftermath of the explosion.
The Gulf States paid tribute to the victims of the explosion when Qatar said it would send field hospitals to aid Lebanon's medical response.
Qatar ruler Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani called President Michel Aoun to offer his condolences, according to the Qatar state news agency.
Sheikh Tamim wished "an early recovery of the injured" and added that he "expressed Qatar's solidarity with brotherly Lebanon and its willingness to provide all kinds of help".
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
Doctors move an injured person from Najjar Hospital to another hospital in the Al-Hamra region of Beirut after several hospitals were damaged in the explosion
Buildings and cars in the neighborhood of Mar Mikhael are partially destroyed after an explosion in Beirut harbor last night
After the fatal explosion that devastated Beirut, firefighters set fire to a fire in the city's port this evening
Rauch stieg aus dem Hafengebiet mit Schäden und Trümmern auf, nachdem eine große Explosion den Hafen von Beirut erschüttert hatte
Die dicke Rauchwolke taucht am Dienstagabend nach der Explosion im Hafen über der Stadt Beirut auf
A view shows the damage received from a store in the Burj Abu Haidar in Beirut
Israel unter den Ländern, die von Bomben getroffene humanitäre Hilfe in Beirut anbieten
In einer Fernsehbotschaft forderte der libanesische Premierminister Hassan Diab heute Abend alle "freundlichen und brüderlichen Länder auf, dem Libanon beizustehen", Stunden nach der Bombenexplosion, die die Innenstadt von Beirut durchbohrte, Dutzende tötete, Tausende verwundete und unzählige Gebäude in der Stadt zerstörte Center.
Unter denjenigen, die den Anruf beantworteten, befanden sich der Iran, Großbritannien und Frankreich.
Israel, mit dem der Libanon technisch immer noch Krieg führt, bot ebenfalls seine Unterstützung an.
"Nach der Explosion in Beirut haben Verteidigungsminister Benny Gantz und Außenminister Gabi Ashkenazi im Namen des Staates Israel der libanesischen Regierung über internationale Vermittler medizinische und humanitäre Hilfe sowie sofortige Nothilfe angeboten", sagte a gemeinsame Erklärung der beiden Ministerien.
Das Angebot kommt nach zwei Wochen verschärfter Spannungen zwischen den rivalisierenden Nachbarn mit einer Reihe von Grenzkollisionen zwischen den israelischen Streitkräften und der Hisbollah an der Nordgrenze Israels.
Israel beschuldigte die libanesische Gruppe Hisbollah, versucht zu haben, bewaffnete Männer über die von den Vereinten Nationen abgegrenzte Blaue Linie zu schicken, und erklärte, sie habe die libanesische Regierung für einen sogenannten "Terroranschlag" verantwortlich gemacht.
Die Hisbollah und Israel führten zuletzt im Sommer 2006 einen 33-tägigen Krieg.
Anderswo am Golf twitterte der Außenminister der Vereinigten Arabischen Emirate, Anwar Gargash, dass "unser Herz bei Beirut und seinen Menschen ist".
Er postete den Tribut neben einem Bild des Burj Khalifa in Dubai, dem höchsten Gebäude der Welt, das in den Farben der libanesischen Flagge beleuchtet ist.
"Unsere Gebete in diesen schwierigen Stunden sind, dass Gott … den brüderlichen Libanon und die Libanesen beschützt, um ihre Leiden zu lindern und ihre Wunden zu heilen", schrieb er.
Die Golfstaaten, darunter Katar und die Vereinigten Arabischen Emirate, unterhalten enge Beziehungen zu Beirut und leisten seit langem finanzielle und diplomatische Hilfe, um die politischen und sektiererischen Spaltungen des Libanon zu vermitteln.
Das bahrainische Außenministerium forderte seine Staatsangehörigen im Libanon auf, sich an das Operationszentrum des Ministeriums oder an Manamas Vertreter in Beirut zu wenden, während Kuwait seinen Bürgern befahl, äußerste Vorsicht walten zu lassen und drinnen zu bleiben.
Es dauert nur wenige Tage, bis ein Tribunal der Vereinten Nationen über die Ermordung des ehemaligen Premierministers des Landes, Rafik Hariri, entscheiden wird.
Das Haus seines Sohnes Saad Hariri, der auch das Land führte, wurde durch die Explosion beschädigt, aber er wurde als sicher bestätigt.
Save the Children sagte in einer Erklärung, dass Mitglieder ihres Teams vor Ort in der Stadt ganze Straßen zerstört und Kinder nicht gemeldet haben.
Obwohl die Büros der Wohltätigkeitsorganisation in der Stadt schwer beschädigt sind, haben sie zugesagt, dass ein schnelles Reaktionsteam bereit ist, Unterstützung anzubieten.
Jad Sakr, Landesdirektor von Save the Children's im Libanon, sagte: „Wir sind schockiert und am Boden zerstört von der heutigen Explosion.
„Die Zahl der Todesopfer ist möglicherweise mehrere Tage lang nicht bekannt, aber wir wissen, dass bei einer solchen Katastrophe Kinder verletzt, geschockt und von ihren Eltern getrennt werden können.
„Unsere Kinderschutzteams sind bereit, die Bemühungen der Regierung zu unterstützen, die mit ziemlicher Sicherheit noch einige Tage andauern werden.
"Es ist wichtig, dass Kinder und ihre Familien Zugang zu den Dienstleistungen erhalten, die sie dringend benötigen, einschließlich medizinischer Versorgung sowie physischem und emotionalem Schutz."
Er fügte hinzu: „Der Vorfall hätte nicht zum schlimmsten Zeitpunkt eintreten können und hat Gemeinden getroffen, die bereits unter den Auswirkungen der Covid-19-Krise und der wirtschaftlichen Verschlechterung gelitten haben.
'Beirut's main port, now completely damaged, is vital for much of the food, grains and fuel that Lebanon imports, and families will immediately feel the shortage in basic needs as a result of this tragedy.'
Lebanese President Michel Aoun holds a High Defence Council meeting at the Baabda Palace following the blast
A car if left flipped on its roof on a motorway as a result of the devastating impact of the explosion yesterday
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
The health minister told Reuters there was a 'very high number' of injured. Al Mayadeen TV said hundreds were wounded
Witnesses have reported bystanders injured by falling debris from buildings and shards of glass flying towards people after the shockwave smashed out windows
A wounded man walks near an explosion site in Beirut
A large explosion rocked the Lebanese capital Beirut last night. The explosion, which shook entire buildings and shattered glass, was felt in several parts of the city
Israel denies any involvement in Beirut port blast that comes amid rising tensions in between Lebanon and its neighbour
by WILL COLE for MailOnline
Israel has denied having anything to do with the huge explosion in Beirut, adding that the country was ready to give humanitarian and medical assistance to Lebanon.
The huge explosion in port warehouses near the city centre as killed more than 100 people, injured over 4,000 and sent shockwaves that shattered windows, smashed masonry and shook the ground.
Lebanon's interior minister said initial information indicated highly explosive material, seized years ago, that had been stored at the port had blown up. Israel, which has fought several wars with Lebanon, denied any role.
'Israel has approached Lebanon through international security and diplomatic channels and has offered the Lebanese government medical and humanitarian assistance,' a written statement from Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said.
The offer comes after two weeks of heightened tensions between the rival neighbours, which involved a series of border clashes between the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and Hezbollah on Israel's northern frontier.
Earlier this month, Israel accused Hezbollah of trying to send gunmen across the UN-demarcated Blue Line and said it held the Lebanese government responsible for what it termed an attempted 'terrorist' attack.
Lebanon's interior minister said initial information indicated highly explosive material, seized years ago, that had been stored at the port had blown up
There have been numerous similar border spats in recent years but the most recent full-scale conflict broke out between the two sides in 2006 after Hezbollah killed eight Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two, sparking the 34-day Israel-Lebanon war.
Hezbollah launched rockets at its southern neighbour and Israel returned fire, bombing Lebanese towns, villages and key infrastructure targets.
The conflict ended inconclusively and the two sides are still, technically, at war. Lebanon is one of 31 UN member states that does not recognise Israel's existence as a state.
International aid in the form of emergency workers and medical personnel is already on its way to Lebanon.
France says it is sending two planes with dozens of emergency workers, a mobile medical unit and 15 tons of aid. French President Emmanuel Macron's office says the aid should allow for the treatment of some 500 victims.
French peacekeepers stationed in Lebanon, a former French protectorate, have been helping since the explosions, Macron's office said.
Jordan says a military field hospital including all necessary personnel will be dispatched, according to the Royal Court. Egypt has opened a field hospital in Beirut to receive the wounded.
Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamacek says Lebanon has accepted an offer to send a team of 37 rescuers with sniffer dogs to Beirut. Denmark says it is ready to provide humanitarian assistance to Lebanon, and Greece says it is ready to help Lebanese authorities 'with all means at its disposal.'
Prime Minister Hassan Diab, in a short televised speech, has appealed to all countries and friends of Lebanon to extend help to the small nation, saying: 'We are witnessing a real catastrophe.' He reiterated his pledge that those responsible for the massive explosion at Beirut's port will pay the price, without commenting on the cause.
Diab's speech came the morning after the blast killed at least 100 people and wounded thousands.
Smoke was still rising from the port Wednesday morning. Major downtown streets were littered with debris and damaged vehicles, and building facades were blown out.
Lebanese Red Cross official George Kettaneh said at least 100 people were killed and more than 4,000 were wounded, and said the toll could rise further.
After yesterday's explosion, Shi'ite Iran, the main backer of militant political party Hezbollah, also offered support, as did Tehran's regional rival Saudi Arabia, a leading Sunni power.
'What we are witnessing is a huge catastrophe,' the head of Lebanon's Red Cross George Kettani told broadcaster Mayadeen. 'There are victims and casualties everywhere.'
Hours after the blast, which struck shortly after 6 p.m. (1500 GMT), a fire still blazed in the port district, casting an orange glow across the night sky as helicopters hovered and ambulance sirens sounded across the capital.
A security source said victims were taken for treatment outside the city because Beirut hospitals were packed with wounded. Ambulances from the north and south of the country and the Bekaa valley to the east were called in to help.
The blast was so big that some residents in the city, where memories of heavy shelling during the 1975 to 1990 civil war live on, thought an earthquake had struck. Dazed, weeping and wounded people walked through streets searching for relatives.
'I promise you that this catastrophe will not pass without accountability,' Prime Minister Hassan Diab told the nation.
'Those responsible will pay the price,' he said in his televised address, adding that details about the 'dangerous warehouse' would be made public.
The interior minister told Al Jadeed TV that ammonium nitrate had been stored at the port since 2014.
The U.S. embassy in Beirut warned residents in the city about reports of toxic gases released by the blast, urging people to stay indoors and wear masks if available.
Footage of the explosion shared by residents on social media showed a column of smoke rising from the port followed by an enormous blast, sending up a white cloud and a fireball into the sky. Those filming the incident from high buildings 2 km (one mile) from the port were thrown backwards by the shock.
It was not immediately clear what caused the initial blaze on Tuesday that set off the blast.
Lebanon's health minister said more than 50 people had been killed and more than 2,750 injured. Lebanon's Red Cross said hundreds of people had been taken to hospitals.
The governor of Beirut port told Sky News a team of firefighters, who were battling the initial blaze, had 'disappeared' after the explosion.
President Michel Aoun called for an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday and said a two-week state of emergency should be declared. He said it was 'unacceptable' that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate were stored for six years without safety measures.
The prime minister called for a day of mourning.
The explosion occurred three days before a U.N.-backed court is due to deliver a verdict in the trial of four suspects from the Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah over a 2005 bombing which killed former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and 21 others.
Hariri was killed by a huge truck bomb on the same waterfront, about 2 km (about one mile) from the port.
Western countries including the United States, Britain and France also said they were ready to assist.
Images showed port buildings reduced to tangled masonry, devastating the main entry point to a country that relies on food imports to feed its population of more than 6 million.
It threatens a new humanitarian crisis in a nation that hosts hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and which is already grappling with economic meltdown under one of the world's biggest debt burdens.
Residents said glass was broken in neighbourhoods on Beirut's Mediterranean coast and inland suburbs several kms (miles) away. In Cyprus, a Mediterranean island 110 miles (180 km) across the sea from Beirut, residents heard the blast. One resident in Nicosia said his house and window shutters shook.
Lessons from history: Some of the worst industrial accidents from the last two decades
Tianjin, China – Container storage explosion
On August 12, 2015, a series of explosions killed approximately 173 people and injured hundreds of others at a container storage station in the city's port.
Responders to initial reports of a fire at the site were not able to bring the blaze under control because, unknown to the firefighters, vast amounts of sodium cyanide and other chemicals which react with water were being stored at the site.
There were two initial explosions within 30 seconds of each other at the facility, the second of which was far larger because it was the result of 800 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploding.
Fires at the site, which released tonnes of harmful substances into the air, were left uncontrolled due to the sheer scale of the explosion.
Of the 173 fatalities, 104 were firefighters.
On August 12, 2015, a series of explosions killed approximately 173 people and injured hundreds of others at a container storage station in the city's port
Gazipur, Bangladesh – A boiler explosion
During a restart of equipment on July 3, 2017, following a 10-day shutdown for Eid, Multifabs Limited confirmed that there garments factory boiler exploded, collapsing a section of its multi-story factory in the district of Gazipur on the outskirts of Dhaka.
Worringly, the company was quoted as saying some 50 people were inside the building while the six-year-old boiler was having maintenance work done to it.
Over the next 24 hours, rescuers found seven bodies in rubble, and three other victims died in hospital. The death toll would remained at 10.
'I heard a big bang when I was having tea outside,' factory driver Hafiz Mostafa said, as dozens thronged the factory site and firefighters moved rubble in search of missing persons. 'I saw windows, doors, glasses, machinery and a section of the wall of the building go flying.'
'The boiler was running well,' Mahiuddin Faruqui, Multifab's chairman told Reuters at the time. 'After servicing when workers were trying to restart it, it went off.'
Cyprus navy base – Munitions dump blast
In one of the worst defence industry disasters this century, 13 people, including the head of the Cypriot navy, a navy base commander and six firefighters were killed by a blast at a munitions dump which knocked out the island's biggest power station.
Firefighters were called to the Evangelos Florakis navy base on the south coast of the island on 11 July, 2011, to tackle a blaze at the dump, which burned for about an hour before causing the explosion.
The blast almost levelled the nearby Vassilikos power plant, which produces nearly 60 percent of the island's energy, damaged buildings in nearby villages and rained metal on a motorway. All the victims were Cypriots.
The country's defense minister and army chief quit hours after the explosion at the dump, which held confiscated Iranian armaments. A government spokesman ruled out sabotage.
The blast wounded 62 people, shredded the outer walls of two multi-storey buildings and shook olive groves and farming villages for miles around the base.
'My tractor jumped about half a meter in the air,' said farmer Nicos Aspros, who was tilling his field at the time of the blast. 'There isn't a house in the community which hasn't been damaged.'
Firefighters were called to the Evangelos Florakis navy base on the south coast of the island on 11 July, 2011, to tackle a blaze at the dump, which burned for about an hour before causing the explosion
Lagos, Nigeria – Armoury explosion
The armoury explosion was the result of an accidental detonation of a large stock of military high explosives at a storage facility in the Nigerian capital on 27 January 2002.
The fires created by the debris from this explosion burnt down a large section of Northern Lagos, and created a panic that spread to other areas.
Also thrown up by the blast were thousands of as yet unexploded military munitions, which fell in a rain of exploding shells, grenades and bullets casting further destruction across most of the northern section of the city.
As people fled the flames, many stumbled into a concealed Ejigbo canal and drowned.
The explosion and its aftermath are believed to have killed at least 1,100 people and displaced over 20,000, with many thousands injured or homeless.
The government of Nigeria launched an enquiry, which blamed the for failing to properly maintain the base, or to decommission it when instructed to do so in 2001.
Enschede, Netherlands – Fireworks disaster
The city of Enschede was built up around the SE Fireworks depot, the only one in the Netherlands to be located in a residential area.
On 13 May, 2000, firefighters were tackling a small fire at the warehouse when the explosion ripped through the building sending debris and fireworks into the air.
Unaware of the oncoming disaster, locals had been watching the firefighters tackle the blaze – and at least one was filming the fire – when the factory exploded.
The first explosion had a strength of 800kg TNT equivalence. However the majority of the damage was caused by the last explosion which had a strength within the range of 4000–5000kg TNT equivalent.
A total of 400 homes were destroyed and 1500 buildings damaged. The blasts killed 23 people including four firefighters, and injured nearly 1,000 people.
One week prior to the explosion, SE had been audited. The company was judged to have met all official safety regulations while the legally imported fireworks had been inspected by Dutch authorities and deemed safe.
Dutch firefighters continued to work in harsh conditions, and with the help of German firefighters from a town a short distance over the border, the blaze was put out by the end of the day.
On 13 May, 2000, firefighters were tackling a small fire at the warehouse when the explosion ripped through the building sending debris and fireworks into the air
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