A HUGE explosion in Lebanon has killed at least 50 people and injured nearly 3,000 others after the blast devastated Beirut today.
The enormous natural disaster has been compared to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear attacks as hundreds of casualties emerged from the sea of wreckage.
Officials said the reverberating blast wave occurred in a port area where explosive materials were stored, causing significant damage in multiple blocks.
But what exactly happened in Lebanon on Tuesday, August 4, after months of economic chaos?
WHAT IS HAPPENING IN LEBANON?
Lebanese health minister Hamad Hasan said: "I have never in my life seen a disaster this big," as he confirmed at least 50 deaths and 2,700 injuries.
Pictures showed buildings destroyed, people walking wounded, and a sea of wreckage after the blast that could be heard some 125 miles across the sea in Cyprus.
Nearby buildings around the port have been leveled, windows and doors have been blown out, and fires burn as smoke plumes billowed across Beirut.
The Government Palace– the home of Lebanon's Prime Minister Hassan Diab – was damaged in the blast, and his wife and daughter were injured in the explosion.
Some people are believed to still be trapped under the rubble, including in their damaged homes.
Video showed a column of smoke rising from the port area from what appeared to be an initial explosion, followed by a massive blast that sent up a mushroom cloud and a shock wave.
The footage on social media appears to show several small explosions coming from a building before the main blast.
"I saw a fireball and smoke billowing over Beirut. People were screaming and running, bleeding," one witness said. "Balconies were blown off buildings. Glass in high-rise buildings shattered and fell to the street."
Pictures showing the battered and bloody arriving at hospitals in search of treatment after the carnage as bodies lay strewn on the streets.
Struggling hospitals there have pleaded for blood donations as the wounded stream in, reports said.
An AP photographer near Beirut's port saw people lying wounded on the ground and widespread destruction in central Beirut.
American journalist Ben Wedeman, who was also reporting live from a partially wrecked bureau, said "this was something the likes I’ve never seen before."
WHY WAS THERE AN EXPLOSION?
The blast was compared to an earthquake and was heard nearly 150 miles away in Cyprus, while homes six miles away from the site of the explosion were damaged.
The exact cause has yet to be confirmed.
"We do not have information about what has happened precisely, what has caused this, whether its accidental or manmade act," UN spokesman Farhan Haq said.
Lebanon's state news agency NNA and two security sources said the blast occurred in the port area on August 4, where there are warehouses housing explosives, reported Reuters.
Lebanon's internal security chief Abbas Ibrahim has insisted that these were explosive materials rather than military-grade explosives.
Security services there said the carnage may have been caused by a fire in a depot of highly volatile materials seized from a ship a few months ago and stored there.
It appears there was a blaze or an explosion at a site in the port, before another much large explosion then ripped through the area.
WHAT DID OFFICIALS SAY ABOUT IT?
Beirut's governor Philip Boulos called the explosion a national disaster and compared it to Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear disasters, which killed an estimated 225,000 people.
Fighting back tears as he arrived at the scene of the disaster, Boulos said: "I ask the Lebanese people to pull together."
"I have never in my life seen a disaster this big," said Lebanese health minister Hamad Hasan.
Al Mayadeen television reported there were hundreds of casualties, and the Lebanese Red Cross have said they are receiving thousands of emergency calls.
Red Cross spokesman Georges Kettaneh said emergency services had been "overwhelmed" and ambulances have been called in from across the country to aid the rescue effort.
An Israeli official said said the nation had nothing to do with a huge explosion amid ongoing clashes between the two nations.
Israel's Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told Israeli N12 television news that the explosion was most likely an accident caused by a fire
DID THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION COMMENT?
White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany told a news briefing on Tuesday that the Trump administration is tracking the aftermath.
McEnany offered no details about the causes of the blast.
The US State Department said they are ready to offer "all possible assistance" to Lebanon.
The United States Pentagon said: "We are aware of the explosion and are concerned for the potential loss of life due to such a massive explosion."
The BBC noted that the explosion erupted as a verdict is due in a trial over the killing of ex-PM Rafik Hariri in 2005.
Lebanon is also passing through its worst economic and financial crisis in decades.
It comes amid rising tensions between Israel and the militant Hezbollah group along Lebanon's southern border.
Source: Read Full Article