A massive explosion ripped through Lebanon’s capital Beirut Tuesday, killing at least 100 and injuring over 4,000, according to the health ministry.
Reports indicate a sizable amount of ammonium nitrate, an explosive compound, was being stored at the site.
Two explosions went off at 7pm local time, with the second one being significantly larger. Individuals 20km away said they felt the shocks of the explosion.
The state-run National News Agency said the source of the explosion was initially believed to be a major fire at a warehouse for firecrackers near the port in Beirut, but authorities are still investigating the cause.
Witnesses said the blast sent up a huge mushroom cloud, and videos of the blast filled social media immediately.
“The building was shaking. The balcony glass shattered. I thought they were throwing bombs at us,” a 22-year-old man living in Beirut and who asked not to be identified told The Foreign Desk in a phone interview. “I was so scared,” he said.
The country’s health minister ordered all hospitals in the area to prepare to take in injuries and requests for blood donors spread throughout the city.
The governor of Beirut, Marwan Abboud said in a television interview that he could not confirm the cause of the explosion. He did call it a national catastrophe as he broke into tears.
Major General Abbas Ibrahim, head of Lebanon’s general security service, walked through the blasts’ damage, reiterating that “it is not possible to get ahead of the investigations and say that there was a terrorist act,” the National News Agency reported.
The US Embassy in Beirut has put out a warning to individuals close to the blast to “stay indoors and wear masks if available” because of reports of toxic gases that were released from the explosion.