Report says explosion at Beirut Port equivalent to 4.5 magnitude earthquake, the blast killed more than 100 says Lebanese Red Cross

State of emergency can not be rule out

"This is not just ammonium nitrate," former CIA operative says of explosion

UK says too early to speculate on cause of massive blast in Beirut

The Jordanian Seismological Observatory of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources recorded the explosion that occurred at the Beirut Port on Tuesday, and stated that its intensity was equivalent to an earthquake with the magnitude of 4.5 on the Richter Scale, RT reported. 

Lebanese President Michel Aoun called for an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday and said a two-week state of emergency should be declared following a massive explosion in Beirut that killed at least 100 people and injured 4,000 others.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab called for a day of mourning on Wednesday.

According to an AFP report, the entire port engulfed was in fire, ships ablaze at sea and crumbling buildings: the site of the massive blast in Beirut's harbour area resembled a post-nuclear landscape.

Ambulance sirens rang throughout the area as vehicles ferried the dead out for at least three hours and fire trucks rushed in and out of the blast zone.

Inside the port itself, the hangars looked like charred cans, everything destroyed beyond recognition as fire-fighting helicopters flew overhead, dumping water.

Every parked vehicle within a radius of several hundred metres sustained damage from blast, so big that it was felt in Cyprus, 240 kilometres (150 miles) away.

The cars closest to the site of the explosion were reduced to scrapyard metal, their wailing alarms and flashing lights adding to the chaos.

The head of the observatory, Mahmoud Al-Qaryouti, said in a press statement that the Jordanian earthquake monitoring stations recorded the explosion at 06:08 minutes, and that the explosion was equivalent to a 4.5-magnitude tremor.

Al-Qaryouti described the energy released from the explosion as “very strong”.

The source of the powerful explosion that rocked the city of Beirut on Tuesday has yet to be determined; however, some reports claim that the blast was a result of a massive nitrate storage catching fire at the 12th Ward.

The Earlier report confirmed that as a result of this massive explosion, over 80 people have been killed and more than 3,500 others have been hospitalized for injuries sustained during and after the blast.

Meanwhile, more than 100 people have been reportedly killed in the blast in Beirut, Sky News Arabia TV channel reported on Wednesday citing the Lebanese Red Cross.

According to the report, more than 4,000 people were injured.

"Until now over 4,000 people have been injured and over 100 have lost their lives. Our teams are still conducting search and rescue operations in the surrounding areas," Lebanese Red Cross says.

Lebanese officials said they expect the death toll to rise further as emergency workers dig through the rubble to search for survivors.

The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear. Officials linked the blast to some 2,750 tonnes of confiscated ammonium nitrate that were being stored in a warehouse at the port for six years. 

"This is not just ammonium nitrate," former CIA operative says of explosion

Robert Baer, a former CIA operative with extensive experience in the Middle East, said videos of Tuesday's blast showed that while ammonium nitrate may have been present in the warehouse, he does not believe it was responsible for the massive explosion that ensued, CNN reported.

Initial reports blamed the blast on a major fire at a warehouse for firecrackers near the port, according to Lebanese state news agency NNA.

Lebanon's Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, later said that 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive material used in fertilizers and bombs, had been stored for six years at a port warehouse without safety measures, "endangering the safety of citizens," according to a statement.

Baer said he thinks that there were military munitions and propellants present. He speculated it could have been a weapons cache, but it's unclear who it belongs to.
"It was clearly a military explosive," he said. "It was not fertilizer like ammonium nitrate. I'm quite sure of that."

"You look at that orange ball (of fire), and it's clearly, like I said, a military explosive."

Baer noted that white powder seen in the videos of the incident before the major blast are likely an indicator that ammonium nitrate was present and burning. He also noticed a lot of munitions going off ahead of the larger explosion.

No evidence of an attack: Baer said while he believes the explosion does not look like solely ammonium nitrate, there's still no evidence that this was an attack. The government has blamed poor management and vowed to get to the bottom of it.

"It almost looks like an accident," he said. "It was incompetence, and maybe it was corruption, but the question is whether it was military explosives, who was it going to or why was it stored there?"

Baer isn't confident we'll ever know the truth.

"I've worked in Lebanon for years, and no one is going to want to admit they kept military explosives at the port. It's a stupid thing to do."

Investigation launched: Prime Minister Diab's account appeared to be backed by Lebanon's General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim, who said a "highly explosive material" had been confiscated years earlier and stored in the warehouse, just minutes' walk from Beirut's shopping and nightlife districts.

The Prime Minister has launched an investigation into the explosion, saying he "will not rest until we find those responsible for what happened, hold them accountable, and impose maximum punishment."

As yet, there is no clear evidence to suggest the source of the blast.

An investigation committee has been tasked to determine who was responsible for the explosion within five days.

The families of victims will be paid compensation.

 Import traffic will be routed to the Tripoli port in northern Lebanon.

UK says too early to speculate on cause of massive blast in Beirut

The United Kingdom has said it was too early to speculate on the cause of a massive blast that ripped through Beirut.

When asked about speculation about the causes of the blast, British junior education minister Nick Gibb said: "The Lebanese authorities are of course investigating the cause of that tragedy and before we have the results of that inquiry it is premature to speculate."

Gibb also told Sky that Britain was discussing what technical and financial assistance could be offered to Lebanon.

Source: RT, CNN, AFP

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