Massive explosions that rocked the city of Beirut on Tuesday were fueled by a 2,750-ton shipment of ammonium nitrate that had been stored in port since 2013, Lebanon’s prime minister announced.
“I will not rest until we find the person responsible for what happened, to hold him accountable and impose the most severe penalties,” Prime Minister Hassan Diab told reporters on Tuesday evening. It was not immediately clear why the ammonium nitrate was stored at that location, or how it ended up there.
The explosion destroyed Beirut’s port and the surrounding area. At least 78 people were killed and thousands more injured in the incident, with city hospitals unable to find room for all patients. Residents of the island nation of Cyprus reported hearing the explosion, and the Beirut newsroom of CNN as well as Lebanon’s Daily Star were destroyed.
“It’s like Hiroshima,” Beirut mayor Jamal Itani said at a press conference. “There is lots of destruction and the wounded are lying in the streets.”
The disaster hit as Lebanon continues to struggle with the coronavirus pandemic as well as hyperinflation and looming economic collapse.
While tensions between Lebanon and Israel have increased following an attempt by militants to infiltrate Israel’s Golan Heights on Monday, officials from Israel and terror group Hezbollah have denied involvement in the incident.