The Governor of Lebanon’s capital city, Beirut, reported that at least 300,000 people were left homeless after a huge blast tore across the city. In addition, the massive explosion killed upwards of 135 people and wounded an estimated 5,000 others on Tuesday.
Gov. Marwan Abboud told news reporters that up to half of his city is left damaged by the explosion, amid warnings that the death toll was likely to raise far beyond 135, with expected victims still trapped under the debris.
The Lebanese government announced it would is arresting those they believe are responsible 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. The 5,000 people who were wounded have caused medical staffs at hospitals to be stretched to the limit.
The death toll could rise further, the head of the Lebanese Red Crescent George Kettaneh said. Red Crescent is the Muslim world’s version of the Red Cross.
Although the United States’ news media are reporting that the cause of the blast remains unclear, the Lebanese police and fire department leaders said it was likely the detonation of explosive substances being kept inside of warehouses at the seaport for years.
Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi told city’s news outlets media that the blast was likely triggered by more than 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate. The industrial chemical, used for fertilizer, had been stored at a warehouse at the dock since it was unloaded from a seized cargo ship in 2014, he announced. This was the same substance used by the late Timothy McVeigh, who was executed for his bombing of a federal facility in Oklahoma City.
“The orange cloud that towered over the city following the blast was indicative of nitrate explosions and suggested the release of toxic nitrogen dioxide into the air,” said Minister Fahmi.
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 which killed more than 280 Americans, and a massive truck bomb in 2005 that killed Lebanon’s former prime minister.
Lebanon has long been the headquarters of the Shi’ite terrorist group Hezbollah. Hezbollah is a social and political movement with a powerful, well-armed military wing. It was formed in 1980s and received worldwide attention when it killed U.S. Marine peacekeepers. Hezbollah’s creation was a response to what it alleged was Israeli expansion and colonialism.
Iranian and Lebanese Alliance
Meanwhile, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Wednesday that Iran is sending field hospital and medicine to Lebanon after two huge explosions in Beirut on Tuesday afternoon.
“Reiterated #Iran’s strong and steadfast solidarity with people of Lebanon in call with FM Wehbeh. Iran is sending field hospital & medicine to assist with disaster relief. Iran stands with Lebanon,” Zarif tweeted.
“Reportedly, hospitals, already struggling with the country’s coronavirus outbreak, have been overwhelmed by the large number of injured people. Several hospitals were damaged in the blast,” noted Zarif in a press statement in Tehran Times..
Zarif wrote: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the great and resilient people of Lebanon. As always, Iran is fully prepared to render assistance in any way necessary.”
While Hezbollah is headquartered in Lebanon, it gives its allegiance to the Shi’ite Iranian leadership of the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, known as Shi’ite Islam’s Supreme Leader.