Beirut explosion: Tolls rises to 100, Modi expresses shock
At least 100 people were killed in an explosion that rocked Lebanon’s capital Beirut on Tuesday. More than 4,000 people were injured in the massive explosion that shook the entire city. According to President Michel Aoun, 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate had been stored unsafely in a warehouse for six years.
The ammonium nitrate had reportedly been unloaded from a ship impounded at the port in 2013, and then stored in a warehouse, a BBC report reads.
Aoun called for a two-week state of emergency and said the country will observe a period of mourning for three days from Wednesday. Aoun also promised to release 100 billion lire ($66m) of emergency funds.
PM Narendra Modi has expressed shock over the blast. “Shocked and saddened by the large explosion in Beirut city leading to loss of life and property. Our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families and the injured (sic)," his office tweeted.
The city, which has also been witnessing a surge in coronavirus cases, was declared a disaster zone soon after Aoun held an emergency cabinet meeting.
An official investigation is underway to find out more about the exact trigger for the blast. The blast has taken place days before an international tribunal is expected to give its verdict on four Hezbollah members who were accused of killing Lebanese business tycoon Rafiq Hariri.
Lebanon's Supreme Defence Council said those responsible would face the “maximum punishment” possible.
Tony May, a former explosives investigator for the US Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, was quoted in a CNN report as saying, "I've done a lot of accident investigations with the government, both national and international, and it is clear to me that this was a large amount of explosives or energetic material stored in a building that caught fire and that fire propagated to the explosives, causing the accident." May also added that there were no signs of yellow smoke, an obvious sign of an ammonium nitrate explosion. He also added that smaller explosions could have led up to a larger shockwave.
Qatar, Iraq and Kuwait are sending medical aid to Lebanon. Lebanon’s economy minister, Raoul Nehme, said, as an aftereffect of the explosion, the wheat in Beirut’s port granaries cannot be used. But, the country has enough wheat until imports can resume.
The US embassy in Beirut in the meantime has issued a warning for people to stay indoors and wear masks as air quality could be affected.