- Lebanon’s government says “highly explosive materials” were stored near blast scene.
Apair of explosions rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Tuesday, leaving at least 78 dead and more than 4,000 injured, according to figures supplied by the country’s health minister. The cause of the blasts is yet to be determined, but Lebanese officials say it was accidental. Scenes of the damage were broadcast across the world, leading to an outpouring of grief, with several countries offering to assist Lebanon in its recovery efforts, including France, Iran, and the United States.
Abbas Ibrahim, Lebanon’s internal security chief, said the ferocity of the blasts was likely caused by the nearby presence of ammonium nitrate, which he said the government had confiscated from a ship in the city’s port several years ago. Witnesses said they saw a cloud of orange-colored smoke coming from the site of the explosion, an occurrence consistent with explosions involving nitrate. Ammonium nitrate is often used in bomb-making.
According to the country’s National News Agency, Prime Minister Hassan Diab has declared Wednesday a nationwide day of mourning.
Despite the assessments given by Lebanese officials, some right-wing media outlets indirectly put the blame on the Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah, repeating reports that it housed some of its explosive material in the city. Twitter was also initially abuzz with talk of the group’s indirect involvement. In a statement, Hezbollah did not confirm or deny accusations that it was involved. “We extend our condolences to the Lebanese people over this national tragedy,” the statement read.