The Governor of Beirut has said that 300,000 people have been left homeless after an enormous explosion tore across the city, killing at least 135 people and wounding thousands.
Marwan Abboud added that around half of the city had been damaged by the explosion, amid warnings that the death toll was likely to raise far beyond 100, with many victims still trapped under rubble.
It also emerged on Wednesday afternoon that 85 per cent of grain stocks in Lebanon, which relies heavily on food imports, were destroyed. This would suggest the country only has enough grain to last for another month.
The Lebanese government announced it would be placing all those it held responsible for the port of Beirut under house arrest while their investigation continues.
Smoke continued to rise over the flattened port area, while in the city some people were still searching for missing loved ones. At least 5,000 people were wounded, overwhelming hospitals.
The death toll could rise further, the head of the Lebanese Red Cross George Kettaneh said.
The cause of the blast remains unclear, though Lebanese leaders said it was likely down to explosive substances that had been stored at warehouses in the port for years.
Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi told local media the blast was likely triggered by more than 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate. The industrial chemical, used for fertiliser, had been stored at a warehouse at the dock since it was unloaded from a seized cargo ship in 2014, he said.
The orange cloud that towered over the city following the blast was indicative of nitrate explosions, experts said, and suggested the release of toxic nitrogen dioxide into the air.
It appeared to be the most powerful blast ever felt in this city despite it having endured the 1975-90 civil war, a 1983 suicide attack on the United States embassy that killed 63 people and a bombing of the peacekeepers headquarters in the same year, and a massive truck bomb in 2005 that killed its former prime minister
Britain said on Wednesday it was too early to speculate on the cause. Only US President Donald Trump seemed to suggest it could have been a possible attack.
Court delays key ruling on Lebanese PM's murder due to blast
The UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon has suspended a verdict on the 2005 murder of former Lebanese premier Rafic Hariri following the deadly blast in Beirut.
The court's decision was due on Friday but the ruling has been postponed until August 18, the court said in a statement.
Death toll rises to 135
The death toll has risen to 135 and the number of people injured by the blast now stands at 5,000 according to Lebanese officials.
Beirut explosion needs independent probe, says Amnesty
In a statement issued today, a spokesman for Amnesty International said:
The horrific scenes in the aftermath of the explosion yesterday were devastating for a country already suffering under the strain of multiple crises. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families at this tragic time.
Whatever may have caused the explosion, including the possibility of a large amount of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely, Amnesty is calling for an international mechanism to be promptly set up to investigate how this happened.
Amnesty also calls on the international community to urgently increase humanitarian aid to Lebanon at a time when the country was already struggling with the severe economic crisis, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.
21 French citizens injured in blast
Prosecutors in France opened an investigation Wednesday after 21 French citizens were wounded in the devastating blast at the port in the Lebanese capital Beirut, the Paris prosecutor said.
The prosecutors opened a probe into "involuntary injury" using their jurisdiction to investigate acts committed abroad, Paris prosecutor Remy Heintz said in a statement.
At least 113 people were killed in Tuesday's blast with dozens still missing and 4,000 people wounded. Heitz said an initial count had shown that 21 French citizens were wounded in the blast.
Queen expresses condolences for Lebanon
The Queen has said that her "thoughts and prayers" are with the people of Lebanon following Tuesday night's devastating explosion.
How chemicals abandoned by Russian businessman triggered devastating blast
The timer was ticking from six years ago, when 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate were taken from an impounded ship and stored in the port of Beirut, John Mullin and Theo Merz write.
It was a massive bomb just waiting to go off; a disaster equivalent to an earthquake measuring 3.5 on the Richter scale.
And all because Igor Grechushkinof, the Russian owner of the Rhosus ship, carrying the deadly cargo from Georgia to Mozambique, declared bankruptcy on an unscheduled stop, and was forced to abandon it there.
Beirut blast could tip Lebanon over edge
Beirut's residents are world experts at patching things up after explosions tear their city asunder, writes Colin Freeman.
Within a decade of the end of the civil war that raged in the 70s and 80s, you could walk most of downtown without seeing a single sign of bullet or bomb damage. And while it's frequently been a battlefield since, life has somehow always continued despite the odd car bomb, a war with Israel in 2006, and occasional overspill from the conflict in neighbouring Syria.
Unusually, the latest massive blast to devastate downtown was not the work of a militia or foreign power. Instead, the explosion that sent an atom-bomb style shock wave over the skyline on Tuesday was from nearly 3,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, accidentally ignited after being stored unsafely in a docks warehouse for six years. It has killed up to 100 and injured 3,000, as well as leaving the city centre looking like Manhattan after 9/11.
Yet as it deals with the aftermath, the Lebanese government may be profoundly wishing it was indeed the work of al-Qaeda or Islamic State. Because that, at least, would allow them blame some malign outside actor - rather than
Death toll rises to 113
Lebanese officials say the death toll stands at 113 and that many people are still trapped under rubble.
Skyscraper in UAE illuminated with Lebanese flag
خالص تعازينا للشعب اللبناني الشقيق .. اللهم ارحم موتاهم واشفي المصابين، واحفظ لبنان وألهم شعبها الصبر والسلوان .. قلوبنا معكم 🇱🇧 pic.twitter.com/EJuh4LJvyb
— Sarah Al Amiri (@SarahAmiri1) August 5, 2020
Authorities told six months ago that nitrates risked blowing up 'all of Beirut'
Some disturbing revelations have been published by the news agency Reuters which suggest Lebanese authorities were well aware of the dangers of the warehouse that exploded.
A source close to a port employee said a team that inspected the material six months ago warned it could "blow up all of Beirut" if not removed, Reuters reported.
The head of Beirut port and the head of customs both said on Wednesday that several letters were sent to the judiciary asking for the dangerous material be removed, but no action was taken.
Port General Manager Hassan Koraytem told OTV the material had been put in a warehouse on a court order, adding that they knew then the material was dangerous but "not to this degree".
"We requested that it be re-exported but that did not happen. We leave it to the experts and those concerned to determine why," Badri Daher, director general of Lebanese Customs, told broadcaster LBCI.
Two documents seen by Reuters showed Lebanese Customs had asked the judiciary in 2016 and 2017 to request that the "concerned maritime agency" re-export or approve the sale of the ammonium nitrate, which had been removed from cargo vessel Rhosus and deposited in warehouse 12, to ensure port safety.
One document cited similar requests in 2014 and 2015.
Lebanese government to place port chiefs under house arrest
— Timour Azhari (@timourazhari) August 5, 2020
Scuffles on the street
Some kind of scuffle appears to have erupted on Beirut's streets between Lebanese government loyalists and members of the public.
The video below reflects the immense anger being felt towards Lebanon's government as initial findings suggest the explosion was a result of gross negligence by the authorities.
مشهد من اعتداء مرافقي سعد الحريري على الناس في ساحة الشهداء pic.twitter.com/8j1O5qtY2s
— Michel Abi Rached | ميشال (@michelarached) August 5, 2020
Nearly all of Lebanon's grain stocks destroyed
Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based Arab broadcaster, reports that 85 per cent of Lebanon's grain stocks were destroyed by the explosion.
A terrible new twist in Lebanon's humanitarian crisis
With a looming famine and surging Covid infections, the country was already facing catastrophe, Sarah Newey and Anne Gulland ask: What happens next for the Lebanese people?
The explosion in the port ripped through the city, leaving some 300,000 people homeless, more than 4,000 wounded and at least 100 dead. But the incident is just the latest in a series of calamities to hit the nation – from a 15-year civil war to an economic meltdown.
Speaking to the Telegraph from his house 30km outside Beirut, Rami Shamma, field operations director at the NGO World Vision Lebanon, said that the blast will compound these existing humanitarian emergencies - which in turn will limit the country’s capacity to recover from the explosion.
“We have three crises at present: the Syrian refugee crisis; the economic crisis that started in October; and then we have the Covid-19 outbreak that started in February,” Mr Shamma said. “Many friends and acquaintances are just thinking, why a fourth crisis on top of this?”
Survivor likens blast to 'massacre'
"A massacre. I saw people screaming, covered in blood, homes broken, glass shattered, roads that look like Hiroshima or like a tsunami hit," Elie Zakaria, a resident of a neighbourhood close to the port, told AFP.
Le Monde front page image on Lebanon
The is the image on the front page of French newspaper Le Monde. It shows the Lebanese flag, but with the flag's green tree transformed into the ominous mushroom cloud that was created by the explosion in Beirut.
BEYROUTH : le dessin à la Une du Monde de ce mercredi 5 août. pic.twitter.com/PGKbZxOJ14
— PLANTU Officiel (@plantu) August 5, 2020
'We didn't realise it was that dangerous'
According to Sky News Arabia, a manager at the port pf Beirut has said they were aware of explosive materials being stored there but "we did not expect they would be that dangerous." The death toll of the blast currently stands at least at 100 while thousands are injured.
Islamic Relief to deliver food and water to homeless Lebanese
Nidal Ali, the Lebanon director of the charity Islamic Relief, said:
All of us in Beirut are still in shock after yesterday’s explosion. I was at home and the glass doors of our balcony shattered – at first we thought it was an earthquake.
Islamic Relief has already started its response – we are looking at providing drinking water and food for people who have lost their homes. In a few days, we will also start helping to clear the streets of the debris caused by the blast, providing people currently out of work with cash to help out. Longer-term we will need to continue providing food parcels, as the seaport has been destroyed, meaning food imports will be significantly reduced to a country that is already on its knees.
Image appears to show improper nitrate storage at site of blast
This photograph, highlighted by respected open source investigators at Bellingcat, appears to show volatile ammonium nitrate being storied improperly at the warehouse in Beirut.
The substance appears to have been decomposing. Bellingcat pointed out that the design of the windows in this image match other photos of the warehouse in question, which indicates that the photograph is genuine.
— Riam Dalati (@Dalatrm) August 4, 2020
Macron to visit Lebanon
Emmanuel Macron, the French president, will visit Macron on Thursday to offer his personal condolences for the disaster and observe the French aid programme.
Expert: Blast crater around 150m wide
We have updated this article, adding extra information about the source of the blast, investigating an image reportedly showing the ammonium nitrate at the warehouse, and measuring the crater, which is approximately 150 meters long. https://t.co/MRcAApRGeX
— Nick Waters (@N_Waters89) August 5, 2020
Recap: today's developments
Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi told local media that the blast was likely caused by over 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate. The industrial chemical used for fertiliser was stored at a warehouse at the dock ever since it was unloaded from a seized cargo ship in 2014, he said.
The orange cloud that towered over the city following the blast was indicative of nitrate explosions, experts said, and suggested the release of toxic nitrogen dioxide into the air.
Lebanon's health minister said residents who are able to leave should, saying the hazardous materials in the air after the explosion can have long-term deadly effects.
Lebanon's Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, said that those responsible would "pay the price" and said the warehouse at the epicentre of the blast had been "dangerous".
"I promise you that this catastrophe will not pass without accountability," he said in a televised speech.
"Facts about this dangerous warehouse that has been there since 2014 will be announced and I will not preempt the investigations."
One thing that is certain is the calamitous effect the blast will have on Lebanon’s already collapsing economy.
Israel offers aid to Lebanon
Israeli has offered aid and medical support to Lebanon via an intermediary, while several hospitals in the north have offered to treat victims of the Beirut explosion.
Reuven Rivlin, the president of Israel, also offered his condolences. He said: We share the pain of the Lebanese people and sincerely reach out to offer our aid at this difficult time.”
Bridal video interrupted by Beirut blast
$3bn damages to Beirut - Governor
Marwan Abboud, the Governor of Beirut, has also said that around half of the city has been damaged and that the repairs will cost around $3bn.
300,000 homeless in Beirut, says governor
The Governor of Beirut has said that 300,000 people have been left homeless in the wake of the explosion.
First satellite image of Beirut's ground zero
We have the first satellite picture captured this morning over Beirut (right) 2020-08-05 by @planetlabs vs 2020-07-26 (left). Red circled area is where the explosion took place. pic.twitter.com/Bsa4E8f95u
— Sam (@Samir_Madani) August 5, 2020
Beirut hospitals overwhelmed by thousands of wounded people
Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece offer support
The Czech Republic has said it will send a team of 37 rescuers with sniffer dogs to aid Lebanese emergency services.
Greece and Denmark have also offered to help in any way they can.
Jordan, Egypt open hospitals to wounded
Jordan and Egypt have offered space in hospitals to treat those injured by the blast in Lebanon. Both countries have reportedly opened field hospitals in Beirut to triage victims.
Young man, alive, pulled from rubble
Here is some video of a young man named locally as Issam Shams being retrieved from the rubble in Beirut. This may give hope to the city that not everyone trapped under the debris will have lost their lives.
انتشال الشاب عصام شمص من تحت الانقاض وهو على قيد الحياة❤ pic.twitter.com/Ot1vdrOFP3
— layal h (ليال حداد) (@layalhaddad) August 5, 2020
France sending two military planes, mobile clinic, search and rescue teams
France will send two military planes to Lebanon Wednesday with search and rescue experts, 15 tonnes of sanitary equipment and a mobile clinic equipped to treat 500 people injured in Tuesday's monster blast at Beirut port, the presidency said.
The planes will leave from Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris around midday (1000 GMT) to arrive in Beirut late afternoon with 55 civil security personnel on board, it said.
A dozen emergency personnel will also be sent to Beirut shortly "to reinforce hospitals in the Lebanese capital," said the presidency.
President Emmanuel Macron called his Lebanese counterpart Michel Aoun Tuesday to express France's support for the Lebanese people and promising a dispatch of French aid.
The 55 rescuers being deployed Wednesday are specialists in post-disaster rubble clearing and rescue, said the Elysee, adding France was working to "identify additional needs" on the ground in Beirut.
A cataclysmic explosion at Beirut port sowed devastation across entire neighbourhoods, killing more than 100 people and wounding thousands.
The blast appeared to have been caused by a fire igniting 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate left unsecured in a warehouse.
Tel Aviv City Hall to display Lebanese flag
Lebanon and Israel are technically still at war, and have been since the 2006 conflict.
But Tel Aviv's City Hall has announced it will display a Lebanese flag today in solidarity with victims of the explosion, according to Channel 13.
"Humanity precedes any conflict, our hearts are with the Lebanese people," said the city's mayor.
Lebanese Red Cross appeals for donations
Some information here on how you can donate to the Lebanese Red Cross, which is leading the emergency response on the ground, treating the injured and retrieving victims from the wreckage.
— Lebanese Red Cross (@RedCrossLebanon) August 4, 2020
What remains of Beirut port
More grim footage, this from the Independent's Beirut correspondent Bel Trew, showing the decimated wreckage that was once the city's port. Beirut heavily depends on the port for imports of key supplies such as food and medicine. Now it is a heap of rubble.
— Bel Trew (@Beltrew) August 5, 2020
Seven years and $10bn to rebuild Beirut
Ghanem Nuseibeh, a Middle East analyst at Harvard University, estimates it could take up to seven years to rebuild Beirut with a bill of $5-10bn - money that Lebanon's drained coffers certainly cannot spare.
Rebuilding Beirut will take at 5-7 years and I would roughly estimate 5-10 billion dollars needed for immediate rebuilding. China is keen on building ports. Watch that space.
— Ghanem Nuseibeh (@gnuseibeh) August 5, 2020
Iran offers support, condolences
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has offered condolences and medical support to Lebanon after a huge blast at Beirut port devastated entire neighbourhoods of the city.
Tehran "is ready to offer medical and medicinal aid and help treat the injured and other assistance," Rouhani wrote in a message to his Lebanese counterpart, according to the government website.
Rouhani also expressed hope the cause of the deadly blast would be uncovered and calm restored to Beirut as soon as possible.
'Coronavirus saved us'
Lots of tweets this morning from foreign journalists based in Beirut whose offices have been wrecked by the explosion. This, from an Associated Press reporter, shows that thankfully their staff were not in the office when the blast happened.
— Dalal Mawadدلال معوض (@dalalmawad) August 5, 2020
Watch: Blast tears through BBC Beirut office
This is the moment the explosion caused havoc in the BBC's Beirut office while a journalist was conducting an interview. The BBC says its staff in Beirut are safe and accounted for.
This was the moment of the explosion inside the BBC Beirut office pic.twitter.com/n4Vx8iTF7B
— Martin Patience (@martinpatience) August 5, 2020
"Devastating" aftermath of explosion
The BBC's Middle East correspondent in Beirut has tweeted this video which also gives some insight into the scale of the damage and the enormous work now underway to clear debris.
— Lina Sinjab (@BBCLinaSinjab) August 5, 2020
Ammonium nitrate: what it is and why it is explosive
According to Dr David Caldicott, an expert on emergencies and medicine at Australia National University, the blast has some similarities with similar nitrate-related disasters in Australia.
This is clearly a very significant explosion, and the reported number of deaths is likely to be far higher than currently identified.
Ammonium nitrate is an important fertiliser, but also a key component in improvised explosives around the world. The Oklahoma bombing in 1995 involved 3-4 tonnes of the material, and it has been alleged that as much as 2,600 tonnes has been involved in Beirut's case.
Following the Oklahoma bombing, federal restrictions in the US were introduced. Our research group computer modelled the possible effects of merely a 5 tonne ammonium nitrate/fuel oil (ANFO) device on the Adelaide CBD in the mid-‘00s, and the results were several 100 dead and 1000s injured. Shortly after, more stringent accounting of an agent the clearly still has utility in agriculture was introduced in Australia.
This explosion can be considered as a ‘high order’ explosion, with an obvious blast wave seen to be propagated from a massive secondary explosion, that followed on from the event. This has significant implications for the number and types of casualties that might be expected.
Primary injuries are blast-related, as a consequence of the overpressure wave interacting with the hollow space in victims; lung injuries are often survived, but subsequently fatal, and bowel injuries are common.
Secondary injuries are caused by flying debris; effectively environmental shrapnel.
Latest images from the scene
These photographs taken this morning by correspondents from Reuters, AFP and AP show the scale of the damage to Lebanon's once picturesque port city:
Watch: Priest in Beirut flees for cover as debris falls during mass
Watch: Beirut blast caused by 'bomb of some kind', suggests Donald Trump
Telegraph contributor Finbar Anderson is recovering in hospital
Before/after. A million thanks to the amazing friends, strangers and medical staff who gave me lifts, lent me phones and stitched me up. I feel so lucky it wasn’t worse pic.twitter.com/hwNrpL1uBl
— Finbar Anderson (@andfinbar) August 5, 2020
International aid is mobilised for Lebanon
International aid, including emergency workers and medical personnel, has been mobilised to support the injured in Lebanon.
France says it is sending two planes containing a mobile medical unit, 15 tonnes of aid and dozens of emergency workers, which should be sufficient for the treatment of 500 victims.
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."
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani says Tehran "is ready to offer medical and medicinal aid and help treat the injured and other assistance."