BEIRUT: A huge explosion in port warehouses near central Beirut killed more than 50 people, injured over 2,750 and sent shockwaves that shattered windows, smashed masonry and shook the ground across the Lebanese capital.
Rescue workers in Lebanon are searching for more than a hundred people who are missing after a huge explosion devastated the port area of the capital Beirut on Tuesday.
The blast killed at least 100 people and injured more than 4,000 others.
The whole city was shaken by the explosion and a mushroom cloud could be seen spreading over the port area.
President Michel Aoun said the blast was caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely in a warehouse.
Ammonium nitrate is used as a fertiliser in agriculture and as an explosive.
He scheduled an urgent cabinet meeting for Wednesday, and said a two-week state of emergency should be declared.
The country will observe an official period of mourning for three days from Wednesday.
What happened? Beirut blast
The explosion occurred just after 18:00 (15:00 GMT) on Tuesday after a fire at the port.
Eyewitness Hadi Nasrallah says that he saw the fire but did not expect the blast. “I lost my hearing for a few seconds, I knew something was wrong, and then suddenly the glass just shattered all over the car, the cars around us, the shops, the stores, the buildings. Just glass going down from all over the building,” he told the BBC.
BBC Arabic reporter Maryem Taoumi was conducting a video interview in Beirut with a member of the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy at the time of the explosion.
The following video shows Ms Taoumi, who is now safe, being knocked over by the force of the blast.
SMOKE AND FIREBALL Beirut blast
Footage of the explosion shared by residents on social media showed a column of smoke rising from the port followed by an enormous blast, sending a white cloud and fireball into the sky. Those filming the incident from high buildings 2 km (one mile) from the port were thrown backwards by the shock.
It was not immediately clear what caused the initial blaze on Tuesday that set off the blast.
Lebanon’s health minister said more than 50 people had been killed and more than 2,750 injured. Lebanon’s Red Cross said hundreds of people had been taken to hospitals.
The governor of Beirut port told Sky News that a team of firefighters, who were battling the initial blaze, had “disappeared” after the explosion.
President Michel Aoun called for an emergency meeting of the Supreme Defence Council. Prime Minister Diab called for a day of mourning on Wednesday.