2,750 Tonnes Of Ammonium Nitrate Exploded: Lebanon PM On Beirut Blasts
“It is unacceptable that a shipment of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate has been present for six years in a warehouse, without taking preventive measures,” he said at a defence council meeting, a spokesman told a press conference.
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AFP) — Two enormous explosions devastated Beirut’s port on Tuesday, leaving at least 73 people dead and thousands injured, shaking distant buildings and spreading panic and chaos across the Lebanese capital.
The second blast sent an enormous orange fireball into the sky, immediately followed by a tornado-like shockwave that flattened the port and swept the city, shattering windows kilometres (miles) away.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that 2,750 tonnes of the agricultural fertilizer ammonium nitrate that had been stored for years in a portside warehouse had blown up, sparking “a disaster in every sense of the word.”
Bloodied and dazed wounded people stumbled among the debris, glass shards and burning buildings in central Beirut as the health ministry reported 73 dead and 3,700 injured across wide parts of the country’s biggest city.
“What happened today will not pass without accountability,” said Diab. “Those responsible for this catastrophe will pay the price.”
General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim earlier said the “highly explosive material” had been confiscated years earlier and stored in the warehouse, just minutes walk from Beirut’s shopping and nightlife districts.
The blasts were so massive they shook the entire city and could be heard throughout the small country, and as far away as Nicosia on the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 240 kilometres (150 miles) away.
A soldier at the port, where relatives of the missing scrambled for news of their loved ones, told AFP: “It’s a catastrophe inside. There are corpses on the ground. Ambulances are still lifting the dead.”
“It was like an atomic bomb,” said Makrouhie Yerganian, a retired schoolteacher in her mid-70s who has lived near the port for decades.