At least 73 people have been killed and around 4,000 wounded in a huge explosion which has sent shock waves through Lebanon’s capital, Beirut.
The blast occurred at just after 6pm (local time) at the Port of Beirut causing a huge mushroom cloud which destroyed everything around the port district.
The explosion at the port comes as the country faces an unprecedented financial crisis and a surging COVID-19 outbreak.
The cause of the explosion was originally unclear before officials linked the explosion to some 2,700 tonnes of confiscated ammonium nitrate that was being stored in a warehouse at the port for six years.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that at least one Australian had been killed in the blast.
“I can confirm that there has been one Australian that has been killed, which is terribly devastating,” he told Seven Network on Wednesday.
Terrible scenes out of Beirut after a major explosion. Our hearts go out to those caught up in this tragedy and to our Australian Lebanese community waiting to hear from their loved ones. Australia stands ready to provide our support, including to any Australians affected.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) August 4, 2020
“Our hearts really go out to our Lebanese Australian community.”
“I know there will be many prayers in the churches and the mosques in Australia but given the COVID restrictions, I would just urge the appropriate response.”
Morrison also said the Australian embassy in Beirut was “significantly impacted”.
“All the staff there are well, but the building the embassy is in has been significantly compromised,” he added.
The explosion was so powerful that it was heard 240km away on the island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean.
The explosion also registered as a 3.3 magnitude earthquake in the Lebanese capital.
Traumatised witnesses likened the blast to an apocalypse with doors of apartments being blown off, ceilings collapsing and people badly injured by flying glass and exploding car windscreens.
Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that those responsible for the explosion will be held accountable.
“I promise you this catastrophe will not pass without accountability,” he said.
“It is unacceptable that a shipment of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate has been present for six years in a warehouse, without taking preventive measures.”
“It is unacceptable and we cannot remain silent on this issue.”
Photo: Photo by Anchal Vohra available here and used under a Creative Commons Attribution. The image has not been modified.