UPDATE at 9:00am Wednesday local time: As the sun rises over the devastated city of Beirut, the Red Cross is reporting that at least 100 people were killed and more than 4,000 were wounded in yesterday’s dual explosions, reports The Daily Star of Lebanon.
The Beirut Port is gone — completely destroyed by the blasts — including grain silos critical for the nation’s food production.
“The silos…contain essential grain reserves including wheat, corn, and barley,” reports Al-Arabiya. “Lebanon, which imports up to 80 percent of its food needs, is particularly reliant on imported soft wheat to make Arabic flatbread, a national staple.”
“What happened is like the Hiroshima and Nagasaki explosions. Nothing remains,” Beirut governor Marwan Abboud told Arab News after inspecting the scene of the explosion.
Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab addressed his nation Tuesday night during a news conference, vowing a full investigation and accountability for any people who were responsible. Here are excerpts from his remarks:
“Lebanese Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi told a local TV station that it appeared the blast was caused by the detonation of more than 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored in a warehouse at the dock ever since it was confiscated from a cargo ship in 2014,” reported the Associated Press.
“Ammonium nitrate, which Lebanese authorities have said was the cause of the Beirut blast, is an odorless crystalline substance commonly used as a fertilizer that has been the cause of numerous industrial explosions over the decades,” reported Gulf News.
“These include notably at a Texas fertilizer plant in 2013 that killed 15 and was ruled deliberate, and another at a chemical plant in Toulouse, France in 2001 that killed 31 people but was accidental,” Gulf News added. “When combined with fuel oils, ammonium nitrate creates a potent explosive widely used by the construction industry, but also by insurgent groups like the Taliban for improvised explosives. It was also a component in the bomb behind the 1995 Oklahoma City attack.”
Sympathy and support is pouring in from around the world.
The Israeli government has denied any connection to the blast, and is offering assistance to the people and government of Lebanon.
- “Israel approached Lebanon through international defense and diplomatic channels to offer the Lebanese government medical humanitarian aid,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said in a joint statement.
- “President Reuven Rivlin, in tweets in English, Arabic and Hebrew, added: ‘We share the pain of the Lebanese people and sincerely reach out to offer our aid at this difficult time,'” reported the Times of Israel.
Please continue praying for the survivors of the blasts, and for all the people of Beirut as the go through this horrific ordeal.
[Photo credit: 1) cover of a French-language newspaper; 2) amateur video by Abir Ghattas, posted on Twitter, used by Popular Mechanics; 3) Agence France Presse graphic, published by Arab News]
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