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Amid COVID-19 pandemic, Beirut explosion rocks Lebanon’s capital: What we know so far?

Two huge explosions rocked Beirut’s port in Lebanon on Tuesday. According to Lebanese Red Cross, as many as 100 people were killed and nearly 4,000 injured. Reportedly, the blast happened due to a large supply of potentially unsecured explosive material stored in a warehouse, near the Beirut port. Clearly, local officials are keen to launch an investigation into the blast while the authorities are running to treat the wounded and even search the survivors of the blast.

As the government tries to assess the extent of damage caused by the Beirut twin blasts, let’s take a look at what we know so far:

What, when, and where:

The exact time of the explosion is said to be 6:07 p.m. local time near Beirut’s port and central district. The location is close to several highly-populated areas and tourist sites, including the historic Martyrs’ Square, Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, the government palace, Baabda Palace, and the official residence of the Lebanese President.

The blast not only shattered glass and caused homes to tremble, but it also damaged the headquarters of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Damages were seen as far as 10 kilometers (6 miles) away and the blast was even felt in Cyprus, around 240 kilometers (150 miles) away.

Casualties:

At least 100 people were killed in the blast and more than 4,000 wounded. Apart from human loss, the blast has resulted in an estimated damage of worth three to five billion US dollars. 90% of hotels in the Lebanese capital are damaged. The death toll is expected to continue rising as many are missing until now. The secretary-general of the Kataeb political party, Nazar Najarian, has also succumbed to the blast apart from several international citizens.

Reason:

While the blast was initially blamed on a major fire at a warehouse for firecrackers near the Beirut port, United States President Donald Trump has claimed that it was an “attack”. However, on Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that about 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate were stored in the port warehouse for the past six years, “without preventive measures.” According to him, the probe including “revelations that will be announced about this dangerous warehouse which has been present since 2014.”

“I will not rest until we find those responsible for what happened, hold them accountable, and impose maximum punishment,” he said in a statement. Albeit, several experts have now claimed that the blast could have been caused by more than just ammonium nitrate.

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