Israel has denied having anything to do with the huge explosion in Beirut and added that the country is ready to provide humanitarian and medical aid to Lebanon.
The massive explosion in port camps near the city center killed more than 73 people, injured over 2,750, and sent shock waves that smashed windows, smashed masonry, and shook the ground.
Officials said they expected the death toll from the Tuesday explosion to continue as rescue workers dug through rubble to rescue and remove the dead. It was the strongest explosion in years in Beirut that has been hit by an economic crisis and an increase in coronavirus infections.
The Lebanese Interior Minister said initial information indicated that years ago, high-explosive material that had been confiscated from the port had been blown up. Israel, which has waged several wars with Lebanon, denied any role.
Shi'ite Iran, the main sponsor of Hezbollah, offered support, as did Tehran's regional rival Saudi Arabia, a leading Sunni power.
The Lebanese Interior Minister said initial information indicated that years ago, high-explosive material that had been confiscated from the port had been blown up
"What we are experiencing is a major disaster," Lebanese Red Cross chief George Kettani told Mayadeen. "There are victims and victims everywhere."
Hours after the explosion that occurred shortly after 6 p.m. (1500 GMT), a fire that still blazed in the waterfront and cast an orange glow across the night sky as helicopters hovered and ambulance sirens sounded over the capital.
According to a source of security, the victims were taken outside the city for treatment because the hospitals in Beirut were full of wounded. Ambulances from the north and south of the country and the Bekaa Valley in the east were called for help.
The explosion was so great that some residents of the city, where memories of heavy grenades live during the civil war from 1975 to 1990, believed that an earthquake had occurred. Dazed, weeping, and wounded, people walked the streets looking for relatives.
"I promise you that this disaster will not go without accountability," Prime Minister Hassan Diab told the nation.
"Those in charge will pay the price," he said on his television address, adding that details of the "dangerous camp" would be released.
The interior minister informed Al Jadeed TV that ammonium nitrate had been stored in the port since 2014.
The U.S. embassy in Beirut warned the city residents of reports of toxic gases released by the explosion and urged people to stay indoors and wear masks, if available.
The footage of the explosion shared by residents on social media showed a pillar of smoke rising from the harbor, followed by a massive explosion that sent a white cloud and fireball to the sky. Those who filmed the incident from tall buildings 2 km from the port were thrown back by the shock.
It was not immediately clear what caused the first fire on Tuesday that triggered the explosion.
The Lebanese health minister said more than 50 people were killed and more than 2,750 injured. The Red Cross in Lebanon said hundreds of people had been brought to hospitals.
The governor of the port of Beirut told Sky News that a team of firefighters fighting the initial fire 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 tons of ammonium nitrate were stored for six years without security measures.
The Prime Minister called for a day of mourning.
The explosion occurred three days before a U.S.-backed court was given a verdict in the trial of four suspects of the Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah for a 2005 bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and 21 others .
Hariri was killed by a huge truck bomb on the same bank, about 2 km from the port.
Western countries like the United States, Britain and France also said they were ready to help.
The images showed port buildings reduced to tangled masonry that devastated the main entry point into a country that relies on food imports to feed its more than 6 million people.
A new humanitarian crisis is looming in a nation that is home to hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and is already struggling with the economic collapse under one of the world's greatest debt burdens.
Residents said glass broke in neighborhoods on the Mediterranean coast of Beirut and in inland suburbs that are several kilometers away. In Cyprus, a Mediterranean island 180 km from Beirut, residents heard the explosion. A resident in Nicosia said his house and shutters were shaking.
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