By David Matthews
(New York Daily News) — At least 50 people have been killed and more than 2,750 injured after a massive explosion near Beirut’s port Tuesday, according to Lebanese Health Minister Hamad Hassan.
The death toll in the Lebanese capital isn’t known yet, but hospitals are already full as workers dig frantically in the rubble, where bodies are still buried.
While the direct cause of the blast is not yet known, Lebanon’s state-run NNA news reports that a major fire broke out near the port inside a warehouse used for storing fireworks before the explosions occurred.
However, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, of the General Security Directorate, a Lebanese intelligence agency, said confiscated “high explosive materials” caused the blast and it was “naive to describe such an explosion as due to fireworks.”
Large plumes of smoke, including a large red cloud, were seen over the area as well as multiple damaged buildings.
As of Tuesday evening, the American University of Beirut Medical Center was unable to receive any more patients at its emergency room.
Beirut Gov. Marwan Abboud described the damage as similar in scale to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and said at least 10 firefighters were missing after the explosion.
“This is a national catastrophe,” he said.
The Lebanese Red Cross confirmed on Twitter that it had multiple teams responding to the scene and later issued a plea for blood donations.
Surveys of nearby buildings found extensive damage caused by the blasts.
CNN reported windows were blown out at its offices in the city.
Homes and cars as far as 6 miles away from the blast origin reported damaged as well.
Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab declared Wednesday a day of national mourning following the explosion.
“Reporting indicates the explosion occurred in/around the port of Beirut. We extend our deepest condolences to all those affected, and stand ready to offer all possible assistance,” a U.S. State Department spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday.
Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the White House is also monitoring the situation.
With News Wire Services