By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Beirut: As daylight broke in the Lebanese capital, authorities resumed the search for survivors and dead bodies trapped under rubble after the Beirut port was shattered by a giant blast on the evening of 4 August.
The Beirut blast has been linked to a large supply of confiscated and possibly unsecured explosives, ammonium nitrate, stored in a warehouse at the city’s port, close to highly-populated areas.
Here is what is so far known about the deadly incident.
- The blast took place at 6:07pm local time near Beirut’s port and central district, close to many tourist attractions and government buildings. The landmarks in the immediate vicinity of the blast include the historic Martyrs’ Square, the Gemmayzeh and Mar Mikhael neighbourhoods, Grand Serail, the government palace, Baabda Palace, the official residence of the Lebanese president, as well as the landmark Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, to name a few.
- The blast damaged homes and other buildings as far as 10 kilometres (6 miles) away from the epicentre of the explosion.
- The shockwaves were even felt in Cyprus, around 240 kilometres (150 miles) away, and registered as a 3.3-magnitude earthquake.
- At least 80 people were killed in the blast and 4,000 wounded, Health Minister Hamad Hassan told a state television channel in a phone interview Wednesday morning, adding that this figure is expected to rise. According to the Red Cross’s updated estimates, the death toll has reached over 100 people.
- Beirut’s governor said half of the city’s buildings were damaged in the explosion.
- It hasn’t yet been officially announced what exactly caused the incident. However, the in the early hours of Wednesday, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that about 2,750 metric tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a highly volatile substance used in agricultural fertilisers and bombs, had been stored at a port warehouse for the past six years “without preventive measures”. He said an investigation had been launched into the horrific blast, stressing the probe would include “revelations that will be announced about this dangerous warehouse which has been present since 2014”.
- The warehouse, where the highly explosive material was purportedly stored, is just a few minutes’ walk from Beirut’s major shopping streets and tourist nightlife district.
- Initially, there were conflicting reports about the cause of the incident, with theories swirling suggesting there could have been a missile strike or fireworks stored in port hangars could have detonated.
- Israel denied responsibility for the deadly explosion, asserting it had nothing to do with it. Similarly, the Lebanon-based group Hezbollah also denied allegations that the explosion was the result of a missile attack on a purported weapons cache in the city’s port.
- Multiple nations have offered their assistance to Lebanon, including Russia, the US, UK, France, Greece, Cyprus, and Israel. Moscow said it would deploy a mobile hospital in Beirut to provide medical assistance to the survivors of the explosion. France was also among the first countries to send relief to the Middle Eastern nation.