At least 100 killed, 4,000 injured as massive explosions rip through Beirut

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A helicopter try to put out multiple fires at the scene of the massive explosion that hit Beirut's port on Aug. 4, 2020 in the heart of the Lebanese capital. (AFP)
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Smoke rises from the site of an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon August 4, 2020. (Reuters)
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Firefighters spray water at a fire after an explosion was heard in Beirut. (Reuters)
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A wounded man is checked by a fireman near the scene of an explosion in Beirut on Aug. 4, 2020. (AFP)
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Smoke rises after an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon August 4, 2020. (Reuters)
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An injured man is transported on a stretcher following an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon August 4, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 05 August 2020

At least 100 killed, 4,000 injured as massive explosions rip through Beirut

  • Death toll rises as search continues for survivors
  • Nightmare scene ‘was like a nuclear bomb’

BEIRUT: More than 100 people were killed and thousands were injured on Tuesday when a massive explosion ripped through the port area of Beirut.

The initial death toll was reported as approximately 73, but on Wednesday morning the Lebanese Red Cross said the number of those killed now stood at in excess of 100. 

In a short televised speech Prime Minister Hassan Diab appealed to all countries and friends of Lebanon to extend help to the small nation, saying: “We are witnessing a real catastrophe.”

He reiterated his pledge that those responsible for the massive explosion at Beirut’s port will pay the price, without commenting on the cause.

Footage shared by the Lebanese army on Wednesday showed the devastation at the ground zero of yesterday's blast.

When the blast happened windows shattered throughout the Lebanese capital and balconies were blown off apartment buildings as a giant plume of smoke soared into the air in nightmare scenes that witnesses said reminded of them of a nuclear bomb blast.

“What happened is like the Hiroshima and Nagasaki explosions. Nothing remains,” Beirut governor Marwan Abboud said after inspecting the the scene of the explosion.

The city’s hospitals were overwhelmed with injured victims, and the death toll was expected to rise overnight as the full scale of the disaster became apparent.

It began at about 6 p.m. with a fire at a warehouse in the port, a few small explosions as if from firecrackers, and then one giant blast that sent shockwaves throughout the city and was heard as far away as Cyprus in the Mediterranean.

A plume of white smoke turned pink, and then red, and fires burned for hours.

Among the worst-hit buildings was the HQ of the state power company, EDL, immediately opposite the port. Dozens of staff were injured, including the company’s general manager Kamal Hayek.

The blast happened during a meeting of the Lebanese Phalange Party in Al-Saifi, near the port, and Kataeb Party secretary general Nizar Najarian was killed.

Shocked residents poured into the streets from their homes, with many hurt by flying glass and broken doors and furniture. Some walked to the nearest pharmacy, while the more seriously injured were ferried to hospital by car and motorcycle.

Soldiers tried to clear the streets of dazed civilians, some of them drenched from head to toe in their own blood. Volunteers led survivors away to seek medical help, using their shirts as bandages.

Makrouhie Yerganian, a retired teacher who has lived near the port for decades, said it was “like an atomic bomb.”
“I’ve experienced everything, but nothing like this before," even during the 1975-1990 civil war, she said. “All the buildings around here have collapsed. I’m walking through glass and debris everywhere, in the dark.”
General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim said. “It appears that there is a warehouse containing material that was confiscated years ago, and it appears that it was highly explosive.” Experts said the plume of red smoke suggested the material was probably ammonium nitrate, a common agricultural fertiliser.




Lebanese firefighters work at the scene of an explosion in the Lebanese capital Beirut on Aug. 4, 2020. (AFP)

Messages of support and offers of help poured into Lebanon after the blast. The Saudi Foreign Ministry said the Kingdom expressed “its deepest condolences to the victims of the Beirut explosion.”

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab declared Wednesday a day of mourning, and said those responsible for the explosion would pay the price. “I promise you that this catastrophe will not pass without accountability,” he said.


Yemeni boy fights malnutrition as hunger stalks nation’s children

Updated 28 min 42 sec ago

Yemeni boy fights malnutrition as hunger stalks nation’s children

  • Famine has never been officially declared in Yemen, where the more than five-year-old war has left 80% of the population reliant on aid
  • The war in Yemen has killed more than 100,000 people

HAJJAH, Yemen: Four months ago 10-year-old Hassan Merzam Muhammad was so severely malnourished he was unable to walk or react, carried limp into a Yemeni clinic by his father.
Then, his image in one of Reuters pictures of the year helped draw world attention to his country’s plight. Today, after treatment, he plays with a toy car, sits on a donkey and — mute since birth — uses hand signals and a smile to communicate.
But malnutrition hangs like a spectre over him and 2 million other Yemeni children as war, economic decline and COVID-19 push Yemen closer to what the United Nations warns could be the worst famine for decades.
“Hassan eats what we eat: rice, bread. We don’t have fat-rich foods nowadays, we cannot find meat for him,” his uncle Tayeb Muhammed said.
Hassan has lost some of the weight gained during treatment since returning to his family’s hut. Displaced five times by war, they now live in rural Hajjah, one of the poorest regions. His father has no work to provide for his seven children.
When Reuters first met Hassan in July he weighed just 9 kilos. A struggling local health clinic sent him to the capital Sanaa for treatment, paid for by a charity. He now weighs just over 13 kilos.
“His body is weak again,” his uncle told Reuters, and he needs more treatment.
Famine has never been officially declared in Yemen, where the more than five-year-old war has left 80% of the population reliant on aid in what the UN says is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.
UN warnings in late 2018 of impending famine prompted an aid ramp-up. But this year coronavirus restrictions, reduced remittances, locusts, floods and significant underfunding of the 2020 aid response are exacerbating hunger.
Doctor Ali Yahya Hajjer, at Hassan’s local clinic, said the family needs nutritional baskets delivered to their home until the child’s and the family’s situation stabilizes.
The war in Yemen has killed more than 100,000 people and left the country divided with the Houthis holding Sanaa and most major urban centers.