A massive explosion has torn through the Lebanese capital Beirut causing. Dozens of people are known to have been killed in the blast. Officials say they expect the death toll to rise sharply. The huge explosion in the capital Beirut has killed at least 78 people and injured more than 4,000 others on Tuesday sending shock-waves across the country.
The whole city was shaken by the blast, which began with a fire at the port which exploded into a mushroom cloud. President Michel Aoun said 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate had been stored unsafely in a warehouse for six years. He scheduled an urgent cabinet meeting for today 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.
President Aoun also announced that the government would release 100 billion lira (£50.5m; $66m) of emergency funds. Rescue workers are continuing to search through rubble and the death toll is expected to rise.
“All the buildings around here have collapsed. I’m walking through glass and debris everywhere, in the dark,” one witness near the port told AFP news agency. Hospitals are said to be overwhelmed and many buildings were destroyed.
The blast was also felt 240km (150 miles) away on the island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean. Yesterday’s horrible incident in the port city reminds us of the dreadful Ojhri Camp incident when all kinds of missiles, rockets, and projectiles started raining down in all directions in the early morning of April 10, 1988, in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Ojhri Camp incident also began with the low-density explosion, followed by a huge one similar to that happened in Beirut.
Gen Khalid Mahmud Arif, in his book Working with Zia, mentions that the incident took place on an ill-fated morning when some ammunition was being shifted from one place to another by a rather untrained team. He added that a box containing 122mm Rocket fell from the top of the stack while the men were trying to slide it down. It hit the ground with a thud and exploded on impact, starting a fire that panicked the workmen. Over 100 people were killed and many more injured.
The Beirut explosions on Tuesday were preceded by a fire at a warehouse at Beirut’s port, according to Lebanon’s National News Agency. There were reports that the warehouse contained fireworks, and in several videos posted online, colored flashes could be seen in the dark smoke rising from the fire, just before the major blow.
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