Beirut explosion rocks Lebanon's capital city

By Tara John, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Veronica Rocha, Meg Wagner, Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Zamira Rahim and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 8:59 a.m. ET, August 6, 2020
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9:49 a.m. ET, August 5, 2020

Lebanon’s health sector is suffering from two crises, Covid-19 and explosion aftermath, health minister says

From CNN’s Mohammed Tawfeeq 

A person stands by damaged buildings and vehicles on August 5.
A person stands by damaged buildings and vehicles on August 5. Wael Hamzeh/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Lebanon's Health Minister Hamad Hassan said Tuesday’s explosion that killed at least 100 people and wounded 4,000 added to the country's health care system crisis as it has been already struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We in the health sector are suffering from a crisis in the face of the coronavirus, to which this human and health catastrophe has now been added," Hassan said according to Lebanon’s state-run NNA news.

"It requires everyone to engage positively from politicians, political parties, authorities, and from all friendly and brotherly countries because we suffer from a shortage in the number of beds and a lack of equipment to help injured people and those are in critical conditions," Hassan added.

 

10:01 a.m. ET, August 5, 2020

Here's what we know so far about the Beirut blast

People walk past a damaged building on August 5.
People walk past a damaged building on August 5. Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images

deadly explosion shook Beirut yesterday. The Lebanon capital's 4 million residents woke this morning to the full horror and scale of the damage to their city, lives, and livelihoods.

If you're just reading in now, here's what we know so far about the massive blast:

  • What happened: A massive explosion ripped through central Beirut, near the city's port. It sent up a huge mushroom cloud-shaped shockwave, flipped cars and damaged distant buildings. It was felt as far as Cyprus, hundreds of miles away, and registered as a 3.3 magnitude earthquake in the Lebanese capital.
  • The victims: At least 100 people were killed and 4,000 wounded, state-run media reported, citing the Red Cross. And the death toll could rise today as hundreds more people have been reported missing.
  • The possible source: We're still not exactly sure what caused the blast, but a warehouse storing thousands of tons of unsecured highly explosive material has emerged as a possible source. Lebanon's prime minister said an investigation would focus on the warehouse.
  • The damage: Beirut's governor said it caused up to $5 billion in damage, but at this point, the full extent of the damage is yet to be known. Countries around the world have offered condolences and pledged aid for what the Lebanese Red Cross is calling an "unprecedented and very large" disaster.

Watch CNN's Ben Wedeman report:

9:18 a.m. ET, August 5, 2020

At least 300,000 people displaced by explosion, Beirut governor says

From CNN's Schams Elwazer

A person looks out of the collapsed facade of an apartment on August 5.
A person looks out of the collapsed facade of an apartment on August 5. Marwan Tahtah/Getty Images

At least 300,000 people have been displaced from their homes by Tuesday's devastating explosion, Beirut's governor Marwan Abboud said in an interview with Jordan's state-owned channel Al Mamlaka.

"There are more than 300,000 Lebanese citizens unable to sleep in their own homes," Abboud said during the telephone interview. "Half of Beirut's population have homes that are unliveable for the foreseeable future — for the next two weeks."

Images and videos from the immediate aftermath of the blast show homes destroyed and covered with shattered glass.

At least 100 people were killed, and 4,000 more were wounded in the explosion, according to state media. That death toll is expected to rise as hundreds remain missing.

9:00 a.m. ET, August 5, 2020

“We stand in solidarity with the people of Lebanon,” World Health Organization says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

A damaged hospital in Beirut is seen on August 5.
A damaged hospital in Beirut is seen on August 5. Hassan Ammar/AP

Dr. Mike Ryan, director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Health Emergencies Programme has said it is assisting with the crisis in Beirut and stands in solidarity with the Lebanese people.

Ryan was speaking during a question and answer session streamed live on WHO social media platforms Wednesday.

“It’s a really very shocking event,” Ryan said.

“Obviously damage assessments need to continue, as you’ve seen many, many hospitals overwhelmed with casualties, and people are still looking for the injured and the dead."
“It’s a very sad day. We stand in solidarity with the people of Lebanon, and we will do everything in our power, as WHO and the UN system, to support them.
“Our teams are on the ground. Our WHO country team is on the ground. We have logisticians there and others,” he added. “And we’ve already begun dispatching trauma and surgical kits from out regional warehouse in Dubai.

The UAE Royal Air Wing donated the cost of transporting the kits to Lebanon, Ryan said.

The WHO has also placed emergency medical teams on standby, to be deployed if requested by the Lebanese government.

8:34 a.m. ET, August 5, 2020

Lebanese customs head says he sent six memos warning of dangerous substances stored at Beirut’s port

From CNN's Nada AlTaher

The aftermath of the explosion is pictured on August 5.
The aftermath of the explosion is pictured on August 5. Bilal Hussein/AP

The head of Lebanon's Customs Authority Badri Daher has said he repeatedly warned the country's judiciary about dangerous substances stored at Beirut's port.

Daher said he sent six memos to judiciary officials warning that the substances posed a danger to the public, according to Lebanon’s LBC channel.

“Daher revealed that he asked to re-export these materials, but this matter did not happen," LBC reported.

LBC did not report the dates on which the memos were sent.

The explosion is thought to have been caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored for six years without safety measures at the port, according to Lebanese President Michel Aoun.

Aoun has promised a transparent investigation into the causes of Tuesday’s explosion and vowed that those responsible will be held accountable and punished, amid mounting public anger over Tuesday's disaster.

7:51 a.m. ET, August 5, 2020

UN Secretary General offers condolences to families of victims

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres holds a briefing in New York on March 10.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres holds a briefing in New York on March 10. Luiz Rampelotto/EuropaNewswire/picture-alliance/dpa/AP

United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres has offered his "deepest condolences" to those affected by the explosion in Beirut.

"I wish all injured, including United Nations personnel, a speedy recovery," he said on Twitter Wednesday.

"The [UN] remains committed to supporting Lebanon at this difficult time."

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi also said the agency stood "in solidarity with people of Beirut and Lebanon in these tragic and testing times," in a statement released Wednesday.

7:52 a.m. ET, August 5, 2020

France's Emmanuel Macron will visit Beirut on Thursday

From CNN's Schams Elwazer

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech in Paris on July 13.
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech in Paris on July 13. Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron will visit Beirut on Thursday, to show “solidarity” with the Lebanese people in the aftermath of the disastrous explosion, according to the Lebanese Presidency's official Twitter account.

The Elysée Palace said earlier on Wednesday that France was sending equipment and personnel to Lebanon as part of an emergency assistance package.

6:56 a.m. ET, August 5, 2020

90% of Beirut hotels damaged, state media says

From CNN's Nada AlThaher

The explosion at Beirut's port Tuesday damaged 90% of the hotels in the Lebanese capital, state news agency NNA reported Wednesday, citing Pierre Achkar president of Lebanon's Hotel Federation for Tourism. The port area was severely damaged by the blast.

Beirut has attracted increasing numbers of tourists in recent years, with Lebanon drawing two million visitors in 2018.

8:00 a.m. ET, August 5, 2020

European Union pledges aid and support for Lebanon

An August 5 drone picture shows the aftermath of an explosion at the seaport of Beirut.
An August 5 drone picture shows the aftermath of an explosion at the seaport of Beirut. Hussein Malla/AP

The EU has offered its full support to Lebanon and activated its Civil Protection Mechanism (CPM) in response to the crisis. The CPM is a tool which helps the bloc co-ordinate aid from its member states.

EU officials will urgently deploy "over 100 highly trained firefighters, with vehicles, dogs and equipment, specialised in search and rescue in urban contexts," EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič said in a statement from published Wednesday.

The Netherlands, Greece and the Czech Republic will participate in the scheme and France, Poland and Germany have also offered to assist Lebanon.

"The EU has also activated its Copernicus Satellite mapping system to support the Lebanese authorities in assessing the extent of the damage," Lenarčič added.

"We stand with Lebanon and its people and are ready to mobilise further help."