Beirut: A spokesperson for the Lebanese Ministry of Health said on Thursday that at least 137 people were killed in a huge explosion in the Beirut port, dozens of people were missing, and at least 5,000 were injured.
Tuesday’s explosion destroyed part of the port and caused damage to the entire radius of the city’s center, raising fears that the final death toll may increase significantly.
The explosion was the most powerful explosion ever to have swept Beirut. Beirut is still scarred by the civil war, which ended thirty years ago and has come back with an economic collapse and a surge in coronavirus infections. The explosion shook buildings on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus about 100 miles (160 kilometers) away.
President Michel Aoun said that after 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate used in fertilizers and bombs were confiscated, they were stored in the port without security measures for 6 years.
He said that in a national speech, the government was “determined to investigate and expose everything that happened as soon as possible, and to hold accountable the responsible and the negligent.”
An official source familiar with the preliminary investigation attributed the incident to “inaction and negligence” and said that the committee and judge involved in the incident “did not take any action” to order the removal of dangerous substances.
Cabinet sources told Reuters that the cabinet ordered port officials involved in the storage or custody of materials to be placed under house arrest since 2014. The cabinet also declared a two-week state of emergency in Beirut.