Lebanese capital, Beirut, has been hit by huge explosions, leaving a trail of widespread destruction. There are reports of many injuries and fatalities. Social media have been inundated with videos of the explosion being captured on camera. News agency AFP quoted the health ministry as saying that 50 people were killed in the blasts and close to 3,000 injured. However, a report by BBC put the death toll at 78.
In the viral videos, a large mushroom cloud and widespread devastation could be seen as local residents scurry for shelter. Beirut streets are replete with people walking with blood-stained clothes. One user said the devastation was so big as if a nuclear bomb had exploded. One journalist wrote on Twitter, “Shocking huge explosion caught on camera in #Beirut. For a moment I thought this is a nuclear bomb!”
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Some reports claimed that explosion took place in a warehouse filled with firecrackers. Another report said that at least 10 bodies had been pulled out of debris while hospitals are reported to have been overwhelmed by injured people.
While the reason for the blast is not yet known, a report by the BBC said that tensions were high ahead of the verdict in a trial over the killing of ex-PM Rafik Hariri in 2005. A UN tribunal is due to issue its verdict in the trial of four suspects in the murder by car bomb of Hariri on Friday.
President Michel Aoun said 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate had been stored unsafely in a warehouse for six years.