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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1:55 p.m. ET, August 4, 2020

Red Cross is diverting ambulances to Beirut

From CNN’s Hamdi Alkhshali in Atlanta

The Lebanese Red Cross is diverting ambulances from North Lebanon, Bekaa and South Lebanon to Beirut in order to provide support with the rescue and evacuation of patients, it said in a tweet on Tuesday. 

“Beirut Port explosion: all available Lebanese Red Cross ambulances from North Lebanon, Bekaa and South Lebanon are being dispatched to Beirut to support with rescue and evacuation of patients,” the tweet read.

1:57 p.m. ET, August 4, 2020

White House monitoring explosion in Beirut

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

 Drew Angerer/Getty Images
 Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The White House is monitoring the explosion in Beirut, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said.

“That was breaking as I came out here and safe to say we’re monitoring the situation,” McEnany said. 

Lebanese authorities said there were a large number of injuries following an explosion near Beirut port earlier Tuesday.  

In an earlier statement, the US State Department said it is also “closely following reports of an explosion in Beirut” and “working closely with local authorities to determine if any U.S. citizens were affected.”

1:40 p.m. ET, August 4, 2020

Lebanese president orders military patrols in Beirut

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has directed all the armed forces to deal with the repercussions of the blast in Beirut and to conduct patrols in impacted areas and in the suburbs to ensure security, state-run National News Agency said.

What we know: Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab declared Wednesday a day of national mourning in the aftermath of the massive explosion in the Beirut port area, the national broadcaster TeleLiban reported.

1:50 p.m. ET, August 4, 2020

US State Department says it is "closely following reports of an explosion in Beirut"

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Smoke rises after an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon August 4, 2020, in this picture obtained from a social media video.
Smoke rises after an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon August 4, 2020, in this picture obtained from a social media video. From Karim Sokhn/Instagram/Reuters

The US State Department is “closely following reports of an explosion in Beirut” and “working closely with local authorities to determine if any U.S. citizens were affected.”

“Reporting indicates the explosion occurred in/around the port of Beirut. We extend our deepest condolences to all those affected, and stand ready to offer all possible assistance,” a State Department spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday. 

The Department urge US citizens to “avoid the affected area” and “shelter in place and follow the directions of local authorities.”

“We have no information about the cause of the explosion and would refer you to the Government of Lebanon for further information,” the department said.

1:35 p.m. ET, August 4, 2020

The blast damaged CNN's Beirut bureau

Senior Correspondent Ben Wedeman reports fro CNN's damaged Beirut bureau on Tuesday.
Senior Correspondent Ben Wedeman reports fro CNN's damaged Beirut bureau on Tuesday. CNN

Standing in the wreckage of CNN's Beirut bureau, senior correspondent Ben Wedeman surveyed the damage from a massive blast.

He said the explosion "blew out windows in this room, in the room next to us, our front glass doors," as well as the windows of neighbors in the building.

Wedeman said he had spoken to eyewitnesses living even closer to the port, where the explosion took place, who described a "scene of total destruction."

"The hospitals are overwhelmed at this point with the wounded, [and are] calling people to donate blood," he added.

Wedeman said he had been through wars in Lebanon, but had never felt anything "along the lines of this explosion," he said.

The cause of the blast remains unclear.

1:37 p.m. ET, August 4, 2020

Lebanese prime minister declares national day of mourning

From Charbel Mello

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab has declared Wednesday a day of national mourning in the aftermath of Tuesday’s massive explosion in the Beirut port area, the national broadcaster TeleLiban reported.

Lebanese authorities said earlier that the explosion has left a large number of people injured, CNN senior correspondent Ben Wedeman reported.

The explosion caused massive damage to the surrounding area and sent a huge cloud of red smoke over the city.

WATCH:

1:39 p.m. ET, August 4, 2020

At least 10 firefighters missing in blaze, Beirut governor says

From CNN's Schams Elwazer

Lebanese security officers arrive at the scene of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, August 4.
Lebanese security officers arrive at the scene of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, August 4. Hussein Malla/AP

At least 10 firefighters working for Beirut's municipality are missing after the explosion that rocked Beirut Tuesday, the city’s governor Marwan Abboud said, adding that the scene reminded him of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Asked by a reporter if a fire caused the explosion, he said, “We don’t know. There was a fire, the [firefighters] came to put it out, then the explosion happened and they went missing. We are looking for them."

“It resembles to what happened in Japan, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That’s what [it] reminds me of. In my life, I haven’t seen destruction on this scale," he said.

"This is a national catastrophe,” he added.

1:33 p.m. ET, August 4, 2020

Explosion caused by "confiscated high explosive material," Lebanese official says

From CNN's Hamdi Alkhshali in Atlanta

Major General Abbas Ibrahim, of Lebanon's General Security Directorate, said the massive blast that shook Beirut's port area on Tuesday was caused by confiscated “high explosive materials.”

It would be "naive to describe such an explosion as due to fireworks," Ibrahim told Lebanese TV.

1:08 p.m. ET, August 4, 2020

Chaotic scenes in Beirut hospital

A CNN producer in Beirut has described the "chaotic scene," in the emergency room of one Beirut's hospitals, with doctors conducting triage as they try to treat dozens of people injured in Tuesday's explosion.

"Some people had broken limbs, some showered with glass," Ghazi Balkiz said. 

"I walked in, I saw a few people lying on the floor -- doctors trying to put IVs into them. A couple of people were passed out," he added.