Beirut explosion LATEST: International rescue teams flown to Lebanon as death toll hits 135

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  • August 6, 2020
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International rescue workers have arrived in Beirut to help with the search for missing people after a massive explosion ripped through Lebanon‘s capital.

The blast at the port on Tuesday evening killed at least 135 people, injured more than 5,000 and damaged up to 300,000 homes in Beirut, while losses are estimated to be between $10 billion to $15 billion.

Early investigations blame negligence for the explosion and have begun focussing on a supply of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, used in fertilisers and bombs, which was stored for six years at the port after it was seized.

Meanwhile, public anger is mounting after an official letter circulating online showed the head of the customs department had warned repeatedly over the years that the huge stockpile stored in the port was a danger and had asked judicial officials for a ruling on a way to remove it but to no avail.

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Live Updates


2020-08-06T07:31:11.553Z

The search for missing people continues today:

Rescuers continue hunt for survivors of deadly blast in Beirut

Rescuers continue to hunt for survivors following a deadly blast that killed more than 100 people and left thousands injured in Beirut.

Lebanon’s Government has put all of its port security officials under arrest while investigators probe the cause of the huge explosion.

The investigation is reportedly focusing on possible negligence in the storage of tonnes of a highly explosive fertiliser in a waterfront warehouse.


2020-08-06T07:29:47.703Z

Donald Trump continues to insist that Beirut explosion could have been an attack:

President Donald Trump on Wednesday continued to suggest that the massive explosion that killed at least 135 people in Lebanon might have been a deliberate attack, even as officials in Lebanon and his own defense chief said it’s believed to have be an accident.

“Whatever happened, it’s terrible, but they don’t really know what it is,” Mr Trump insisted. “Nobody knows yet.”

On Tuesday, Trump called the explosion a “terrible attack” and said American generals told him it was likely caused by a bomb. “They seem to think it was an attack,” Mr Trump said. “It was a bomb of some kind, yes.”

Defense Secretary Mark Esper contradicted the president on Wednesday, saying most people believe the explosion “was an accident, as reported.”

But later in the day, Mr Trump insisted nobody knows for sure.

“How can you say accident if somebody left some terrible explosive-type devices and things around perhaps — perhaps it was that. Perhaps it was an attack,” Mr Trump told reporters during a White House briefing. “I don’t think anybody can say right now. We’re looking into it very strongly right now.

“Some people think it was an attack and some people think it wasn’t. In any event, it was a terrible event and a lot of people were killed and a tremendous number of people were badly wounded, injured. And we’re standing with that country. “


2020-08-06T07:26:56.086Z

Beirut sparks memories of Texas explosion in 2013:

The staggering videos from the Lebanese capital are grimly familiar to Tommy Muska thousands of miles away in Texas: a towering blast, a thundering explosion and shock waves demolishing buildings with horrifying speed.

It is what the mayor of West, Texas, lived seven years ago when one of the deadliest fertilizer plant explosions in US history partly levelled his rural town. On Wednesday, Mr Muska also couldn’t shake a familiar feeling — that yet again, no lessons will be learned.

“I don’t know what people were thinking about storing that stuff,” Mr Muska said. He was a volunteer firefighter at the time of the West explosion.

The 2013 disaster at the West Fertilizer Co. was a fraction of the size of Tuesday’s explosion at Beirut’s port that authorities say killed least 135 people and wounded about 5,000. Both blasts involved massive stockpiles of ammonium nitrate, a common but highly explosive chemical, and swift allegations that negligence and weak government oversight were to blame.

Few significant crackdowns on chemical storage came in the wake of the West explosion, which killed 15 people. President Donald Trump scaled back industrial safety and disaster regulations enacted in direct response to the tragedy in Texas.

With a government mired in factional fighting and corruption, Lebanon offers an extreme example of what was once a bustling business economy operating now under little dependable regulation and enforcement.

In Texas, authorities suspected arson but no arrests have been made. The West explosion had the force of a small earthquake. It flattened homes in a five-block radius and destroyed a nursing home where residents, some in wheelchairs, were trapped in rubble. Ten of those killed in the blast were firefighters or first responders.

“We don’t seem to learn that chemical is deadly,” Muska said. “I feel for those people in Beirut, I surely do. It brought back a lot of memories.”


2020-08-06T07:24:39.053Z

Frenchman died in Beirut blast:

One Frenchman, architect Jean-Marc Bonfils, has died while a further 24 French people were injured in Tuesday’s massive warehouse explosion in Beirut, French government ministers have said.

Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot announced Bonfils’s death in a tweet. Junior foreign affairs minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne added on Thursday that, of those injured, three had serious injuries.

French President Emmanuel Macron is due to visit Beirut on Thursday.


2020-08-06T07:12:03.910Z

Crisis unleashed by Beirut blast prompts requests for charity donations and appeals for blood:

Beirut explosion ‘one of the largest non-nuclear blasts in history’

The huge explosion in Beirut which killed at least 135 people is “unquestionably” one of the largest non-nuclear blasts in history, experts have said. 

A team of engineering experts from the University of Sheffield calculated the strength of the blast, which injured around 5,000 people, based on the videos and photos which have since emerged. 


2020-08-06T07:11:13.750Z

Public anger is mounting this morning:


2020-08-05T21:53:15.276Z

That’s all from our live blog for tonight. Thank you for following!


2020-08-05T21:50:43.893Z

An investigation has begun into how the blast was caused

Read more here:

Lebanon puts port officials under house arrest after deadly blast

Evening StandardLebanon’s Government has put all of its port security officials under arrest while investigators probe the deadly blast that killed more than 100 people and left thousands injured and homeless. The blast’s death toll has risen to 135 people with 5,000 injured and 300,000 left homeless.


2020-08-05T21:05:49.070Z

Germany sends search and rescue specialists to Lebanon

Germany has dispatched dozens of search and rescue specialists to Lebanon to help in the race to find survivors trapped beneath rubble following Tuesday’s explosion in Beirut.

About 50 staff of Germany’s THW civil protection organisation flew out of Frankfurt late Wednesday with search dogs and 15 tons of equipment to locate people below collapsed buildings.

Timo Eilhardt, THW’s chief of operations, said there is normally a good chance of finding survivors more than 72 hours after a disaster, “which means we can expect to find people for another two to three days.”

 


2020-08-05T20:42:49.053Z

World Bank to aid Lebanon

The World Bank Group said on Wednesday it stands ready to assess Lebanon’s damage and needs after a devastating Beirut port explosion and work with the country’s partners to mobilise public and private financing for reconstruction and recovery.

The World Bank said in a statement that it “would be also willing to reprogram existing resources and explore additional financing to support rebuilding lives and livelihoods of people impacted by this disaster.”


2020-08-05T20:09:34.720Z

300,000 left homeless by blast

Losses from the blast are estimated to be between $10 billion to $15billion, Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud told Saudi-owned TV station Al-Hadath, adding that nearly 300,000 people are homeless.

Investigators probing the deadly blast that ripped across Beirut focused Wednesday on possible negligence in the storage of tons of a highly explosive fertiliser in a waterfront warehouse, while the government ordered the house arrest of several port officials.

International aid flights began to arrive as Lebanon’s leaders struggled to deal with the widespread damage and shocking aftermath of Tuesday’s blast, which the Health Ministry said killed 135 people and injured about 5,000 others.

Public anger mounted against the ruling elite that is being blamed for the chronic mismanagement and carelessness that led to the disaster. The Port of Beirut and customs office is notorious for being one of the most corrupt and lucrative institutions in Lebanon where various factions and politicians, including Hezbollah, hold sway.

The investigation is focusing on how 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical used in fertilisers, came to be stored at the facility for six years, and why nothing was done about it.

Losses from the blast are estimated to be between $10 billion to $15billion, Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud told Saudi-owned TV station Al-Hadath, adding that nearly 300,000 people are homeless.


2020-08-05T19:50:42.893Z

Professor Andy Tyas, an expert on blast protection engineering at the university, said:

“There are simple rules of thumb relating the maximum expansion of the fireball to the size of the original explosive charge, and from some very approximate measurements from online video footage, we think the explosion is equivalent to something of the order of 1,000-1,500 tonnes of TNT.

“We have also analysed video footage of the time delay between the detonation and the arrival of the shock wave at points several hundred metres from the explosion and these broadly agree with this size of charge.

“If correct, that would mean this explosion had perhaps 10% of the intensity of the Hiroshima bomb.

“Whatever the precise charge size, this is unquestionably one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history, far bigger than any conventional weapon.

“The effects of an event like this are catastrophic to people, infrastructure, economic livelihoods and to the environment.”


2020-08-05T19:10:37.040Z

Blast one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions in history

The Beirut explosion is “unquestionably” one of the largest non-nuclear blasts in history, according to calculations by British engineering experts.

A team from the University of Sheffield has calculated the strength of the blast based on the videos and photographs which have emerged since Tuesday’s catastrophe.

They believe the explosion was the equivalent of 1,000 to 1,500 tonnes of TNT – a blast intensity which would support the belief that it was caused by a fire leading to the detonation of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate fertiliser.

This is about a tenth of the intensity of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb but far bigger than any blast from a conventional weapon.


2020-08-05T18:47:28.443Z

Bride reacts to explosion during wedding

Radiant in a long white gown and veil, 29-year-old Lebanese bride Israa Seblani stands smiling and posing for her wedding video. The scene is shattered by a deafening roar, and a powerful shockwave nearly blows her off her feet.

The dramatic footage captured the moment when a massive explosion rocked the Lebanese capital on Tuesday, killing 135 people and injuring more than 5,000.

Seblani, a doctor working in the United States, helped to check on the injured nearby, before fleeing central Beirut’s Saifi square to safety.

A day later, she and her husband Ahmad Subeih, 34, a businessman in Beirut, were struggling to process what happened.

“I have been preparing for my big day for two weeks and I was so happy like all other girls, ‘I am getting married’. My parents are going to be happy seeing me in a white dress, I will be looking like a princess,” she


2020-08-05T17:57:49.476Z

Charity reunites owners with pets in Beirut

An animal welfare organisation is helping to reunite pets with their owners after a devastating explosion in Beirut on Tuesday.

Non-profit Animals Lebanon is helping to find and treat animals affected by the blast, which has killed at least 100 people and injured more than 4,000 others.

Jason Mier, executive director at Animals Lebanon, said the work was “making people happy” at an “overwhelming” time.

“The goal really now is to reunite people with their lost pets, and that’s been working well, we’ve found owners of at least 20 dogs and cats so far,” Mr Mier told the PA news agency.

The blast damaged the organisation’s office, injuring several cats in the centre with broken glass from its windows.

“We’ve been contacted a couple of hundred times so far since last night, we are the main animal welfare organisation in the country,” Mr Mier told PA.

“So far today we have had more than 40 people out, working in teams of two or three, and that has been ongoing since 8pm last night.

“The goal is to keep going, I know we’re doing good stuff, I know we’re making people happy, but it’s overwhelming for everybody.

“Animals Lebanon has been around for 12 years… but this is the most difficult situation we’ve ever faced,” Mr Mier told PA.

“We’ve joined international conventions, we’ve drafted and passed national animal welfare law, we work throughout the country helping all types of animals.

“With the compounding of all these things, the economic crisis, the government collapse… coronavirus, rising unemployment, and now this blast. This is the most difficult situation we’ve ever been in.

“We’re just trying to get through the day. There’s a lot of people ready to help.”


2020-08-05T17:22:01.096Z

The UK’s aid to Lebanon is “ready to go”, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said.

Read more here:

At least 135 killed in Beirut blast as UK aid ‘ready to go’

Evening StandardThe number of people who died in the deadly explosion that rocked Lebanon’s capital Beirut has risen to 135, with around 5,000 left injured.  Health Minister Hamad Hassan, speaking to Al Manar TV, confirmed that the death toll from the blast on Tuesday has risen from 100 to at least 135, with dozens more still missing.  It comes as Foreign Secretary Dominic said the UK’s aid to Lebanon was “ready to go”.


2020-08-05T16:32:23.536Z

Red cross launches appeal

The British Red Cross (BRC) has launched an emergency appeal in response to the devastating explosion in the Lebanese capital Beirut.

The blast, which happened on Tuesday, killed at least 100 people and injured more than 4,000 others, though the number of British nationals involved is still unknown.

Multiple search and rescue teams, including those from the Lebanese Red Cross, continue to work through the rubble to find anyone who has been trapped.

The funds raised by the BRC appeal will help the frontline responders.

So far, the Lebanese Red Cross has sent all of its emergency medical support to the scene, including more than 75 ambulances and over 375 emergency medical responders from across Lebanon.


2020-08-05T15:59:42.956Z

Macron to fly to Beirut

French President Emmanuel Macron is to fly to Beirut, while his nation has dispatched two planeloads of rescue workers and aid. Turkey is also sending rescue teams and emergency medical personnel.

There are concerns of food shortages and unrest in the city, with the blast compounding anger stemming from a severe economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic.

Former Middle East minister Alistair Burt said he expects the tragedy to lead to “some degree of political shake-up” in Lebanon.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Whether or not something like this does bring the political processes in Lebanon together to appreciate they can’t go on as they are, that will be another thing, but at the moment I think we should focus on the disaster consequences, be as supportive as possible in relation to that.”


2020-08-05T15:40:55.276Z

Queen sends condolences

The Queen’s message to the President of the Republic of Lebanon said: “Prince Philip and I were deeply saddened by news of the explosion at the Port in Beirut yesterday.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those who have been injured or lost their lives, and all those whose homes and livelihoods have been affected.”


2020-08-05T15:04:05.973Z

No British fatalities reported in Lebanon so far

There have been no reports of British fatalities in Lebanon so far, as rescue workers search for survivors of the devastating explosion in the capital of Beirut.