The massive explosion in the capital, Beirut, on Tuesday brought tears to Lebanon’s with a dark period. The bomber struck shortly after noon, killing at least 78 people and injuring more than 4,000.
The port was engulfed in flames and then exploded with a massive plume of smoke that shook the entire city. The eruption was felt 240 kilometers (150 miles) off the island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean, and there were people who thought it was an earthquake.
President Michael Aung said 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate had been stored in an unsafe warehouse for six years, causing the explosion.
He planned an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday and said a two-week state of emergency should be declared. The country will officially observe a period of mourning for three days from today.
President Aung announced that the government will release 100 billion lira ($ 50.5 million; $ 66 million) in emergency funds. “We are witnessing a catastrophe,” George Ketani, head of the Lebanese Red Cross, told local media. “Victims and wounded are everywhere.”
Rescue workers are continuing to search the wreckage, and the death toll is expected to rise.
Government officials said Tuesday that an investigation had been launched into the cause of the explosion. The Lebanese Security Council has said that those responsible will face the maximum possible punishment.
Ammonium nitrate was released from a ship that landed in port in 2013 and was later stored in its warehouse. The bomber struck shortly after noon in front of a gathering of Lebanese nationals, who are embroiled in an economic crisis.
The bomber struck shortly after 18:00 GMT on Tuesday. A BBC correspondent at the scene reported that the dead bodies and severe damage were enough to deactivate the port of Beirut.
People trapped under the rubble were shown by local media. One witness described the blast as deafening, and the videos showed cars wrecked and buildings damaged by the blast.
“All the buildings here have collapsed. I was walking in the dark through glass and debris everywhere, ”one witness near the harbor told AFP.
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