Beirut, Lebanon. 4th Aug, 2020. People walk past damaged vehicles after the explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Aug. 4, 2020. The two huge explosions that rocked Lebanon's capital Beirut on Tuesday left dozens dead and injured, al-Jadeed TV channel reported. Credit: Bilal Jawich/Xinhua/Alamy Live News

Massive explosion in Downtown Beirut shakes city, killing dozens and wounding thousands

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According to the United States Geological Survey, the blast created seismic waves equivalent to that of a 3.3 earthquake. 

On Tuesday, an explosion rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut. Video footage captured by civilians showed a cloud of smoke hovering over the city’s port before a second blast sent a mushroom cloud that enveloped a chunk of the city into the sky. Lebanon’s director of the general security directorate linked the fire to nearly 2700 tons of confiscated ammonium nitrate that were stored at the industrial port’s warehouse for six years after they were seized from a vessel sailing from Georgia to Mozambique in 2013. 

The blast left behind destruction and devastation in its wake, damaging buildings across the city and sending vehicles flying. At press time, Lebanon’s Minister of Health, Hamad Hassan, reported 100 deaths and over 4000 injuries. The death toll is likely to increase as reports continue to come in from across the city as first-responders continue their search for missing people. 

“This is a national disaster,” Prime Minister Hassan Diab said in a televised speech to the nation. “What happened today will not fly by without accountability. All those responsible for this catastrophe will pay the price.” Diab declared Wednesday a national day of mourning. 

In response to the devastation, the Lebanese Red Cross says it dispatched 75 of its ambulances and 375 EMTs, calling in teams from North and South Lebanon and Bekka. It later announced that its 140 line was overwhelmed with thousands of callers and urged people to call “only for critical and severe cases.” Because it could not reach all of the injured in their homes, the Red Cross also set up first aid stations across the city. They also called on people to donate blood.

In doing so, the Red Cross hopes to relieve some of the stress placed on hospitals, which are reportedly so overwhelmed that they are turning away injured people. The director of Beirut’s Lebanese American University Medical Center – Rizk Hospital told state media that the hospital did not have enough beds to treat all 400 people injured by the explosion. To worsen matters, hospitals were already at capacity prior to the blast due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Sara Elroubi is based out of Queens and covers current affairs and social justice issues.

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