On Tuesday evening there was a massive explosion that shook the Lebanese capital, Beirut. The explosion appears to have been centered on the city’s port area. A CNN producer witnessed a “chaotic scene” in Beirut’s emergency room following the explosion.
Lebanon state-run NNA News reported that a major fire broke out near Beirut port and firefighting teams rushed to the scene and working to put out the fire.
The Beirut explosion followed a fire that broke out in the city’s port area, based on a video from the scene. The cause of the blast was not immediately known. The force shook buildings, which were hit again by the shock wave that blew out windows, sending shards of glass flying.
Lebanese Red Cross official Georges Kettaneh said there were hundreds of dead and wounded but did not have an exact figure.
Beirut Gov. Marwan Abboud called it a “national catastrophe,” and the prime minister declared a day of mourning, according to CNN.
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“It resembles 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,” Abboud said of the mushroom cloud.
The White House and U.S. State Department said they are monitoring the situation.
“Having witnessed the horrific explosions at the port this evening, our heartfelt sympathies go out to the victims and their families. We mourn each loss from this terrible tragedy alongside the Lebanese people,” U.S. Ambassador Dorothy Shea said.
Online videos showed a dark pall rising from the port, what normally might be expected from an industrial-area fire. It is followed by an explosion creating a massive white cloud that envelops the area. A moment later, the shock wave hits.
The blast, which occurred shortly after 6 p.m. local time, was followed by the wail of ambulance sirens through streets covered in debris.