Beirut (AsiaNews) – Two huge blasts this afternoon turned the houses and streets in and near Beirut’s port area into a war zone. The explosions were so massive that they were heard as far away as Tyre and Sidon (Sayda).
In many of the capital’s neighbourhoods, windows were blown out, cars upturned or wrecked, trees uprooted.
So far, Lebanon’s Health Ministry has reported at least 27 dead and 2,500 injured, but the toll is bound to rise. Some buildings are rubbles with people still under, with first responder teams trying to rescue them.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab has announced a national day of mourning for tomorrow. President Michel Aoun called for an urgent meeting of the Supreme Defence Council, also tomorrow.
General Security Directorate chief, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, said that the explosions occurred in a warehouse where "highly explosive material" was stored, but did not say more on what might have caused the conflagrations.
Over the past few days, tensions have been running high as the country felt threatened both in the north and the south.
In Israel, south of the border, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that he is ready to go to war to stop Hezbollah violence.
In the north, weapons have been arriving (from Turkey), which could be used against Shia-dominated Hezbollah, a few days before the final verdict by the International Tribunal into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri.
Israel immediately released a statement saying it was not involved in the blasts and offered medical aid to treat the injured. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed closeness to the "resilient" Lebanese people.
Meanwhile, the hospitals are full of people seeking treatment, many injured from broken glass or the shock wave caused by the explosions.