Lebanon: 73 people killed, 3,700 wounded in Beirut explosion

The Lebanese health ministry says at least 73 people have been killed while 3,700 are wounded in a massive explosion at the port in the capital, Beirut, AlJazeera reports.

Among the dead is the Secretary-General of the Lebanese Kataeb Party, the party has announced.

The headquarters of the Kataeb Party, one of the oldest parties in the country, is located right next to the port.

The explosion released a shockwave causing widespread damage to buildings and shattering windows in different parts of the city.

The exact cause of the Beirut explosion was not immediately clear. Mohammed Fahmi, Lebanon’s interior minister, said it was apparently caused by ammonium nitrate that was stored in a warehouse at the port.

General Security Chief Abbas Ibrahim says 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate were in Beirut’s port on the way to Africa when they exploded.

Ibrahim made the comments after a meeting of Lebanon’s Higher Defense Council, which brings together the president and all major security agencies.

In remarks published on the Presidency Twitter account, Lebanese President Michel Aoun has said that it is “unacceptable” that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate were stored in a warehouse for six years without safety measures and vowed that those responsible would face the “harshest punishments”.

Aoun who called for an emergency meeting of the country’s Supreme Defence Council, according to the presidency’s Twitter account also called for a day of mourning on Wednesday.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab has said that those responsible for an explosion at a “dangerous” warehouse in Beirut port area that rocked the capital would pay the price.

“I promise you that this catastrophe will not pass without accountability… Those responsible will pay the price,” he said in a televised speech.

“Facts about this dangerous warehouse that has been there since 2014 will be announced and I will not preempt the investigations”.

At the port, Al Jazeera’s Timour Azhari spoke to Vincenco Orlandini, 69, a crew member of an Italian civilian ship, the Orient Queen, that was docked near the blast site.

He was covered in blood after the explosion threw him across a room of his ship, while several people on board were wounded and taken to hospital, Azhari said.

“I heard the blast and I flew to the opposite [side] of the lobby. I landed on the carpet and I’m lucky; I think that saved me. The ship is totally destroyed – the cabins, the lounge, everything,” Orlandini said.

A civil defense worker who has worked in the sector for 20 years was in disbelief at the scale of the damage.

“I’ve seen the assasinations and the explosions but this is something else. There is something wrong here,” he told Al Jazeera.

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