Up to 300,000 left homeless by Beirut explosion

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 100 people and injured 4,000 others.

The explosion on Tuesday sent shockwaves across the city, causing widespread damage as far as the outskirts of the capital.

Officials said they expect the death toll to rise further as emergency workers dig through the rubble to search for survivors.

Beirut’s city governor Marwan Abboud said up to 300,000 people have lost their homes and authorities are working on providing them with food, water and shelter.

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.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab called for a day of mourning on Wednesday.

12:07 GMT – France’s president says he is traveling to Lebanon with rescue workers

French President Emmanuel Macron announced he would fly to Beirut, and two planeloads of French rescue workers and aid were expected to touch down on Wednesday afternoon.

Macron’s office told The Associated Press that the French leader will meet with Lebanese political leaders but provided no further details. Lebanon is a former French protectorate and the countries retain close political and economic ties.

Meanwhile, the EU commission said the plan is to urgently dispatch over 100 firefighters with vehicles, sniffer dogs and equipment designed to find people trapped in urban areas.

The Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Poland and the Netherlands are taking part in the effort and other countries are expected to join.

Hello, this is Farah Najjar taking over from my colleague Linah Alsaafin.

12:30 GMT – What we know about deadly Beirut explosion, in 500 words

An initial large explosion in the port area of Beirut took place around 6:00pm local time (15:00 GMT) on Tuesday, resulting in a fire, several small blasts and then a colossal explosion that flattened the harbour front and surrounding buildings.

Seismologists measured the event, which blew out windows at the city’s international airport nine kilometres (more than five miles) away, as the equivalent of a magnitude 3.3 earthquake.

12:15 GMT – ‘Stay strong, Lebanon’: Global support over deadly Beirut blast

Emergency medical aid and pop-up field hospitals have been dispatched to Lebanon as the world offers its support and pays tribute to the victims of the huge explosion that devastated Beirut.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab has called on “friendly countries” to support the nation already reeling from its worst economic crisis in decades as well as the coronavirus pandemic.

Gulf states were among the first to respond, with Qatar announcing it would send field hospitals to ease pressure on Lebanon’s strained medical system.

12:00 GMT – Beirut port head said explosive material was warehoused based on court order

Beirut port’s general manager said the facility had warehoused highly-explosive material, blamed for the powerful blast that rocked Beirut, six years ago based on a court order, local broadcaster OTV reported.

The broadcaster quoted Hassan Koraytem as telling it that the customs department and state security had asked authorities for the material to be exported or removed, but that “nothing happened”.

11:45 GMT – Australia to donate $1.4mn to Lebanon

Australia says it will donate 2 million Australian dollars ($1.4mn) in humanitarian support to Lebanon to help Beirut recover from Tuesday’s massive explosion.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne says in a statement the money will go to the World Food Programme and the Red Cross to help ensure food, medical care and essential items are provided to those affected.

She says Australia and Lebanon have a strong relationship built on extensive community ties, and more than 230,000 Australians have Lebanese heritage.

An Australian was killed and the Australian Embassy in Lebanon was damaged in the explosion.

11:30 GMT – After blast, Lebanon has less than a month’s grain reserves

Lebanon’s main grain silo at Beirut port was destroyed in a blast, leaving the nation with less than a month’s reserves of the grain but still with enough flour to avoid a crisis, the economy minister said.

Raoul Nehme told Reuters a day after Tuesday’s devastating explosion that Lebanon needed reserves for at least three months to ensure food security and was looking at other storage areas.

“There is no bread or flour crisis,” the minister said. “We have enough inventory and boats on their way to cover the needs of Lebanon on the long term.”

He said grain reserves in Lebanon’s remaining silos stood at “a bit less than a month” but said the destroyed silos had only held 15,000 tonnes of the grain at the time, much less than capacity which one official put at 120,000 tonnes.

11:15 GMT – Lebanese president promises transparent inquiry into Beirut blast

Lebanon’s president said an investigation into a powerful blast that rocked Beirut would reveal the circumstances of what happened as soon as possible, and that the results would be revealed transparently.

In a televised speech at the start of a cabinet meeting, Michel Aoun also appealed to other nations to speed up assistance to Lebanon, which was already grappling with an economic meltdown.

“We are determined to investigate and reveal what happened as soon as possible, to mete out punishment,” Aoun said.

11:00 GMT – Lebanon blast ‘a real catastrophe’, analyst says

An analyst said Beirut’s massive explosion is like nothing he has seen in his life.

“This is a real catastrophe. What we’ve seen is cataclysmic,” Sami Nader, Director of the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs said.

“The magnitude, the impact of the explosion is beyond belief. I went through the civil war in Lebanon, I was witness to the [2005 former Prime Minister Rafik] Hariri bombing, to other bombings that targeted politicians, but nothing of this scale I have seen in my life.”

12:30 GMT – What we know about deadly Beirut explosion, in 500 words

An initial large explosion in the port area of Beirut took place around 6:00pm local time (15:00 GMT) on Tuesday, resulting in a fire, several small blasts and then a colossal explosion that flattened the harbour front and surrounding buildings.

Seismologists measured the event, which blew out windows at the city’s international airport nine kilometres (more than five miles) away, as the equivalent of a magnitude 3.3 earthquake.

12:15 GMT – ‘Stay strong, Lebanon’: Global support over deadly Beirut blast

Emergency medical aid and pop-up field hospitals have been dispatched to Lebanon as the world offers its support and pays tribute to the victims of the huge explosion that devastated Beirut.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab has called on “friendly countries” to support the nation already reeling from its worst economic crisis in decades as well as the coronavirus pandemic.

Gulf states were among the first to respond, with Qatar announcing it would send field hospitals to ease pressure on Lebanon’s strained medical system.

12:00 GMT – Beirut port head said explosive material was warehoused based on court order

Beirut port’s general manager said the facility had warehoused highly-explosive material, blamed for the powerful blast that rocked Beirut, six years ago based on a court order, local broadcaster OTV reported.

The broadcaster quoted Hassan Koraytem as telling it that the customs department and state security had asked authorities for the material to be exported or removed, but that “nothing happened”.

11:45 GMT – Australia to donate $1.4mn to Lebanon

Australia says it will donate 2 million Australian dollars ($1.4mn) in humanitarian support to Lebanon to help Beirut recover from Tuesday’s massive explosion.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne says in a statement the money will go to the World Food Programme and the Red Cross to help ensure food, medical care and essential items are provided to those affected.

She says Australia and Lebanon have a strong relationship built on extensive community ties, and more than 230,000 Australians have Lebanese heritage.

An Australian was killed and the Australian Embassy in Lebanon was damaged in the explosion.

11:30 GMT – After blast, Lebanon has less than a month’s grain reserves

Lebanon’s main grain silo at Beirut port was destroyed in a blast, leaving the nation with less than a month’s reserves of the grain but still with enough flour to avoid a crisis, the economy minister said.

Raoul Nehme told Reuters a day after Tuesday’s devastating explosion that Lebanon needed reserves for at least three months to ensure food security and was looking at other storage areas.

“There is no bread or flour crisis,” the minister said. “We have enough inventory and boats on their way to cover the needs of Lebanon on the long term.”

He said grain reserves in Lebanon’s remaining silos stood at “a bit less than a month” but said the destroyed silos had only held 15,000 tonnes of the grain at the time, much less than capacity which one official put at 120,000 tonnes.

11:15 GMT – Lebanese president promises transparent inquiry into Beirut blast

Lebanon’s president said an investigation into a powerful blast that rocked Beirut would reveal the circumstances of what happened as soon as possible, and that the results would be revealed transparently.

In a televised speech at the start of a cabinet meeting, Michel Aoun also appealed to other nations to speed up assistance to Lebanon, which was already grappling with an economic meltdown.

“We are determined to investigate and reveal what happened as soon as possible, to mete out punishment,” Aoun said.

11:00 GMT – Lebanon blast ‘a real catastrophe’, analyst says

An analyst said Beirut’s massive explosion is like nothing he has seen in his life.

“This is a real catastrophe. What we’ve seen is cataclysmic,” Sami Nader, Director of the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs said.

“The magnitude, the impact of the explosion is beyond belief. I went through the civil war in Lebanon, I was witness to the [2005 former Prime Minister Rafik] Hariri bombing, to other bombings that targeted politicians, but nothing of this scale I have seen in my life.”

“The port is the major route of trade for Lebanon, the point where we get our wheat, our gas oil, our medicine – this infrastructure is totally destroyed. At the moment we are in deep need of one single dollar to come into Lebanon.”

10:40 GMT – Pope Francis offers prayers for Beirut victims

Pope Francis has offered prayers for the victims, their families, and for Lebanon.

The pontiff appealed that “through the dedication of all the social, political and religious elements,” Lebanon “might face this extremely tragic and painful moment and, with the help of the international community, overcome the grave crisis they are experiencing.”

10:15 GMT – In Pictures: Beirut ‘like a war zone’ after deadly blast

Tuesday’s blast at port warehouses storing highly explosive material was the most powerful in years in Beirut, already reeling from an economic crisis and a surge in coronavirus infections.

“It’s like a war zone. I’m speechless,” Beirut’s mayor, Jamal Itani, told the Reuters news agency while inspecting the damage on Wednesday that he estimated would cost billions of dollars.

10:00 GMT – France sends rescuers, equipment to Lebanon

France will send two military planes to Lebanon with search and rescue experts, 15 tonnes of sanitary equipment and a mobile clinic equipped to treat 500 people injured in Tuesday’s monster blast at Beirut port, the presidency said.

The planes will leave from Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris around midday (1000 GMT) to arrive in Beirut late afternoon with 55 civil security personnel on board, it said.

A dozen emergency personnel will also be sent to Beirut shortly “to reinforce hospitals in the Lebanese capital,” said the presidency.

09:45 GMT – Beirut governor: more than 200,000 people lost their homes after blast

Marwan Abboud , the governor of Beirut, said ore than 200,000 people have become homeless after a massive blast at Beirut port destroyed many buildings.

Abboud told MTV news that between 200,000 and 250,000 people had lost their homes and authorities are working on providing them with food, water and shelter.

“We lost 10 members of the Beirut Fire Brigade and damages range between 3 [billion] and 5 billion dollars and maybe more,” he said.

The governor had revealed that a security report from 2014 warned of the possibility of an explosion in Lebanon’s capital as highly explosive materials had not been stored in a way to ensure public safety.

09:30 GMT – Turkish aid group helps Beirut victims, Ankara offers field hospital

Turkey’s Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) is among those searching for survivors in Beirut, and Ankara has offered to build a field hospital and help as needed.

“We’ve relayed our offer to help…[and] we are expecting a response from the Lebanese side,” a senior Turkish official told Reuters.

Members of the IHH group were digging through debris to look for people and recover bodies, and the group mobilised a kitchen at a Palestinian refugee camp to deliver food to those in need, said Mustafa Ozbek, an Istanbul-based official from the group.

“We are providing assistance with one ambulance to transfer patients. We may provide help according to the needs of the hospital,” he said.

09:05 GMT – Pakistan voices solidarity with Lebanon after explosion

Pakistan’s prime minister on Wednesday expressed sorrow over loss of over 100 lives in a massive explosion that rocked Beirut.

“Deeply pained to hear of the massive explosions in Beirut with precious lives lost & thousand injured,” Khan said in a tweet. “We stand in solidarity with our Lebanese brethren in their difficult hour, sharing their sorrow & grief.”

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