Massive explosions in Lebanon’s capital of Beirut leaves dozens dead

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At least 73 people are reported dead and thousands more are injured following a massive explosion Tuesday that rocked Beirut’s port.

The blasts sent a mushroom cloud high into the sky above the Lebanese capital, leveling much of the city’s port area, damaging some buildings and blowing out windows in others, officials said.

Preliminary assessments suggest the explosion was a tragic accident — but authorities have not ruled out the possibility that it was a planned attack, according to Fox News.

The explosions come just days before a United Nations verdict is due on four alleged Hezbollah members accused of killing former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri in 2005, Fox News reported.

The blasts also took place in the port area, which is controlled by the Shia Islamic movement, the outlet said.

“There are cars with dead people in the streets under rubble, and the medical infrastructure was already at full speed due to the pandemic and lack of supplies,” a source told Fox on Tuesday.

Initial reports said at least one of the explosions occurred at a fireworks warehouse near the city’s port.

The blasts were heard as far away as Nicosia on the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, some 150 miles away, according to Agence France-Presse.

Witnesses saw many people were injured by flying glass and debris. Hospitals called for blood donations, but exact casualties were not immediately known. Local media carried images of bloodied people.

Local broadcaster LBC quoted Health Minister Haamd Hasan as saying a “very high number” of people were injured, Reuters reported. Al Mayadeen TV said hundreds were hurt.

Dramatic footage showed a column of smoke rising after what appeared to be an initial explosion, followed by a huge blast that sent up a mushroom cloud and a shock wave racing across the city.

A reporter with Agence France-Presse at the scene said every shop in the Hamra district was damaged with entire shopfronts leveled, windows shattered and many vehicles destroyed.

Injured people walked in a state of shock along the streets, while dozens of people were rushed to Clemenceau Medical Center, including children, AFP reported.

“Buildings are shaking,” one resident tweeted, while another wrote: “An enormous, deafening explosion just engulfed Beirut. Heard it from miles away.”

The office of the nearby Daily Star newspaper was among the buildings damaged by the explosion.

Ghada Alsharif, a reporter at the outlet, posted a video of the damage and said local media reported that the incident involved fireworks.

Parts of the ceiling collapsed, windows were blown out and furniture was damaged in her office.

Many buildings were damaged, including the headquarters of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Reuters reported.

“I saw a fireball and smoke billowing over Beirut. People were screaming and running, bleeding. Balconies were blown off buildings. Glass in high-rise buildings shattered and fell to the street,” a witness told Reuters.

Beirut resident Rania Masri, who was several miles away from the explosions, told CNN that her windows had been shattered.

“What I felt was that it was an earthquake,” Masri said. “The apartment shook horizontally and all of a sudden it felt like an explosion and the windows and doors burst open. The glass just broke. So many homes were damaged or destroyed.”

The explosions come as Lebanon awaits the verdict on Friday of the four alleged Hezbollah members charged with killing Hariri, who was killed in a van bomb attack in 2005.

The four are on trial in absentia in the Netherlands in the assassination.

On Tuesday, a woman in the city center told AFP: “It felt like an earthquake … I felt it was bigger than the explosion in the assassination of Rafic Hariri in 2005.”

With Post wires

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