Lebanese President Michel Aoun called for an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday and said a two-week state of emergency should be declared following a massive explosion in Beirut that killed at least 78 people and injured 4,000 others.
The explosion on Tuesday sent shockwaves across the city, causing widespread damage even on the outskirts of the capital.
Officials said they expected the death toll to rise further as emergency workers dug through rubble to rescue people and remove the dead.
The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear. Officials linked the blast to some 2,750 tonnes of confiscated ammonium nitrate that were being stored in a warehouse at the port for six years.
Aoun assembled the country’s High Defence Council following the explosion.
Here are the latest updates:
Wednesday, August 5
04:50 GMT – India’s Modi ‘saddened’ by Beirut explosion
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was “shocked and saddened” after learning of the large and deadly explosion that hit the Lebanese capital, Beirut, his office said on Wednesday.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families and the injured,” the prime minister’s office added.
It was unclear if there were Indian nationals affected by the blast that killed at least 78 people and injured about 4,000 others.
04:12 GMT – At least three Beirut hospitals destroyed, two damaged
Dr Mirna Doumit, president of the Order of Nurses in Beirut, said three hospitals were completely destroyed in the city.
“So we had to evacuate patients who were in those hospitals to others. In addition, we have two other hospitals that were partially destroyed. So it was a catastrophe and a big hit to the healthcare system, which was already bleeding,” she told Al Jazeera from the Lebanese capital.
“We lost three nurses working in the hospitals. I don’t find words to describe what happened. It’s like we are in a horror film.”
People gather outside American University of Beirut (AUB) medical centre [Yara Abi Nader/ Reuters]
Medics shift an injured person from Najjar Hospital to another hospital in Al-Hamra area in Beirut [Nabil Mounzer/EPA]
04:01 GMT – Analyst: Lebanon needs international help to deal with disaster
Nasser Yassin, professor at American University of Beirut, told Al Jazeera he doubts the Lebanese government will be able to deal with this disaster on its own.
“Like many issues for the last few months, we’ve seen the Lebanese government not taking the right decisions when it comes to the economy, or finances or social issues. And I can imagine that this disaster, this catastrophe, will be dealt by the way Lebanese people do – relying on themselves and the support of their communities,” he said.
Yassin called on the international community to provide food support, noting major grain silos had been destroyed in the blast.
“For the coming days and months, we will be dealing with the immediate aftermath, and after that, we really need to look into new ways and new people to govern this country,” he said, adding: “We need more responsible leaders and we need the engagement of the international community to deal with this disaster.”
03:00 GMT – Malaysia offers to help ‘in any way we can’
Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein expressed his country’s grief over the Beirut blast, and offered to help in “any way we can”.
“Malaysia stands together in grief as our thoughts and prayers accompany the strong people of Lebanon,” he said in a Twitter post. “We stand ready to support any way we can.”
Malaysia stands together in grief as our thoughts and prayers accompany the strong people of 🇱🇧 Lebanon. We stand ready to support any way we can. Initial reports from our @MYEmbBeirut show that all Malaysians there are safe and have been advised to stay at home #PrayForLebanon pic.twitter.com/tpJJ8HAo5x
— Hishammuddin Hussein 🇲🇾 (@HishammuddinH2O) August 5, 2020
02:25 GMT – At least two Filipinos among the dead
At least two Filipino nationals were among the dead in the massive explosion in Beirut, according to the Philippine Embassy in Lebanon.
The embassy statement also said six other Filipinos were injured in the blast.
More than 27,000 Filipinos working in Lebanon, according to the latest figures of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.
02:12 GMT – Customs office blames Beirut port chief for storage of explosives
Badri Daher, the director of Lebanon’s customs office, said his agency was not responsible for the storage of ammonium nitrate that triggered a massive explosion that left dozens dead.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Bader pointed the finger instead at the head of the Port, Hassan Koraytem.
“They are responsible, and I can tell you that this material shouldn’t have stayed there – it shouldn’t have been there in the first place.”
Koraytem could not be reached for comment. The Port Directorate is under the authority of the Public Works and Transport Ministry.
01:40 GMT – Beirut explosion triggers 3.5 earthquake
The massive explosion in Beirut triggered a 3.5 magnitude earthquake, according to Germany’s geosciences center GFZ.
The explosion, that killed at least 78 people and injured about 4,000 others was heard and felt as far away as Cyprus more than 200 kilometers (180 miles) across the Mediterranean.
00:01 GMT – Lebanon defence council recommends army oversee Beirut’s security
Lebanon’s Supreme Defence Council recommended declaring Beirut a disaster-stricken city following a massive explosion, declaring a two-week state of emergency in the capital and handing over security responsibility to military authorities.
A council statement, read live on television, said President Michel Aoun has decided to release 100 billion Lebanese pounds ($66m) in emergency allocations from the 2020 budget.
It also recommended in advance of a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday that a committee be tasked with investigating the blast and present its findings within five days to mete out the maximum punishment for those responsible.
Large explosion rocks Lebanon’s capital
Tuesday, August 4
23:35 GMT – Death toll rises to 78
The death toll from the massive blast at a port warehouses near central Beirut has risen to 78, with over 4,000 wounded.
Officials said they expected the death toll to rise further after Tuesday’s blast as emergency workers dug through rubble to rescue people and remove the dead.
President Michel Aoun called for an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday and said a two-week state of emergency should be declared.
22:47 GMT – Trump says explosion ‘looks like a terrible attack’
US President Donald Trump said the huge explosion that shook Beirut appeared to be a “terrible attack.”
“We have a very good relationship with the people of Lebanon and we will be there to help. It looks like a terrible attack,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“I’ve met with some of our great generals and they just seem to feel that this was not some kind of manufacturing explosion type of an event … They seem to think it was an attack. It was a bomb of some kind.”
However, the US president did not present any evidence to back his claim.
22:03 GMT – Explosion damages UNIFIL ship, hurts personnel
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said one of its ships docked at the port was damaged in the explosion, leaving a number of its personnel wounded, including some in critical condition.
UNIFIL said it was transporting the wounded peacekeepers to the nearest hospitals and was assessing the situation, including the scale of the impact on its personnel.
“We are with the people and the Government of Lebanon during this difficult time and stand ready to help and provide any assistance and support,” Major General Del Col, UNIFIL head of mission and force commander, said in a statement.
Some pictures from inside Beirut’s mangled port today. pic.twitter.com/ccf3drv3QX
— Timour Azhari (@timourazhari) August 4, 2020
22:01 GMT – US embassy urges people to stay indoors
The US embassy in Beirut warned residents in the capital about reports of toxic gases released by the explosion, urging people to stay indoors and wear masks if available.
21:59 GMT – Beirut declared disaster-stricken city
Lebanon’s High Defence Council, which brings together the president and all major security agencies,declared Beirut a disaster-stricken city.
#Lebanon President called urgent meeting of national defence council, which declared Beirut disaster zone, while PM Diab declared Wednesday day of mourning.”What happened will not pass without accountability,” said Diab.”Those responsible for this catastrophe will pay the price.”
— Zeina Khodr (@ZeinakhodrAljaz) August 4, 2020
21:52 GMT – Investigation committee to say who is responsible within days
After the council meeting at the Baabda presidential palace, which was also attended by Prime Minister Hassan Diab, the following was announced:
– An investigation committee has been tasked to say who was responsible for the blast within five days.
– The families of victims will be paid compensation.
– Import traffic will be routed to the Tripoli port in northern Lebanon.
21:39 GMT – 60 wounded in critical condition
At least 60 of the wounded people were in critical condition, according to the Red Cross.
The organisation said it had also set up triage and first aid stations to help people with non-critical injuries.
Lives lost – homes destroyed – a tired and hungry population – Aid agencies reported 500,000 children going hungry in Beirut area alone – and then this … #Beirut – months ago people asked for a new leadership they faced a militarized state https://t.co/0Xfnv3HDah
— Zeina Khodr (@ZeinakhodrAljaz) August 4, 2020
21:11 GMT – ‘Unacceptable’ 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored without safety measures: Aoun
Aoun said that it is “unacceptable” that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate were stored in a warehouse for six years without safety measures, according to statements published on the presidency’s Twitter account.
Aoun also pledged that those responsible would face the “harshest punishments” and said a two-week state of emergency should be declared.
21:00 GMT – 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate at Beirut’s port when they exploded: Official
General Security Chief Abbas Ibrahim said some 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate were in Beirut’s port on the way to Africa when they exploded.
Ibrahim made the comments after the meeting of Lebanon’s Higher Defence Council.
20:54 GMT – Death toll rises to 73
According to Lebanon’s health ministry, the death toll has risen to 73, with 3,700 wounded.
20:45 GMT – ‘I can’t believe I’m alive’: Survivors recount Beirut explosion
Confusing, devastating, disastrous: these were some of the words people in and around Beirut used to describe the huge explosion that ripped through the Lebanese capital.
The explosion at Beirut’s port was felt across the city and beyond, causing widespread damage and spreading panic.
Al Jazeera spoke to survivors and witnesses in the immediate aftermath of the explosion. Read about what they had to say here.
For other key developments related to the Beirut explosion from yesterday, August 4, click here.