Lebanese rescue workers are digging through rubble looking for survivors of a powerful warehouse explosion that shook the capital, Beirut, killing 100 people and injuring nearly 4,000 in a toll that officials expect to rise.
Tuesday’s blast at port warehouses storing highly explosive material was the most powerful in years in Beirut, already reeling from an economic crisis and a surge in coronavirus infections.
“It’s like a war zone. I’m speechless,” Beirut‘s mayor, Jamal Itani, told the Reuters news agency while inspecting the damage on Wednesday that he estimated would cost billions of dollars.
“This is a catastrophe for Beirut and Lebanon.”
The head of Lebanon’s Red Cross, George Kettani, said at least 100 people had been killed. “We are still sweeping the area. There could still be victims. I hope not,” he said.
Dazed, weeping and injured people walked through streets searching for relatives.
“The blast blew me metres away. I was in a daze and was all covered in blood. It brought back the vision of another explosion I witnessed against the US embassy in 1983,” said Huda Baroudi, a Beirut designer.
“There are many people missing. People are asking the emergency department about their loved ones and it is difficult to search at night because there is no electricity,” Health Minister Hamad Hassan told Reuters late on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab promised there would be accountability for the blast at the “dangerous warehouse”, adding “those responsible will pay the price”.