Scores killed as explosions rip through Beirut, Lebanon

*Economic activity brought to a halt as government seeks emergency assistance

By Myke Uzendu and Daniel Tyokua, with agency reports

No fewer than 80 people have been killed and over 3,000 wounded in a powerful explosion that ripped through Beirut, Lebanon’s capital city.

The entire city was majorly destroyed and, leaving much of it a wrangled mess, with human body parts, building materials and furniture littered everywhere along the streets.

The explosion sent shockwaves across the city, causing widespread damage to buildings and shattering windows even on the outskirts of the capital. The country’s Health Minister, Hamad Hasan, called for international aid to Lebanon, and a number of nations in the West and the Gulf have said they were willing to provide assistance.

It was believed that the explosion came from somewhat abandoned nitrate warehouse abandoning Ned more than six years ago, at the port city.

The explosion left the port a wasteland; cars hanging from the mangled beams of warehouses, bent containers spread across roadways and a large ship listing onto the quayside.

A health worker on the scene told Al Jazeera that he had seen at least 10 people dead near the last site, many left disfigured.

Helicopters circling the port area were trying to extinguish a large fire oozing from the mangled mass of destroyed area, preventing more explosions to get to the epicentre of the city hours after it occurred.

Hospitals in the city were overwhelmed with wounded and turning those with non-serious injuries away.

At Hotel-Dieu hospital, itself left damaged by the explosion, dozens of people trying to enter were turned away as it is in disuse, damaged.

“It’s a catastrophe, a catastrophe,” a man said in disbelief”.

Inside the crowded lobby, bewildered relatives of possible dead persons were seen confused and wailing, asking for assistance for their relationship, who were still believes to be alive and maybe trapped somewhere in the mass of rubble.

An old man fell to his knees and smacked the ground, over and over.

Pharmacies in the city were asked to accept the wounded in order to take pressure off overwhelmed hospitals.

On TV screens, doctors asked for people to come donate blood.

Newscasters on radioman television stations in the city read out the names of missing people – some were port employees, others were firefighters who had first responded to the fire at the port, before the massive explosion ripped the capital apart.

Earlier at the port, a man in the all-white uniform of a boat crew, stained with blood, wandered near an Italian ship docked near the explosion site, the Orient Queen. Its interior was blown out, it was sloped sideways onto the quayside.

“The ship is totally destroyed – the cabins, the lounge, everything,” Vincenco Orlandini, the 69-year-old Italian crew member, told Al Jazeera.

“I heard the blast and I flew to the opposite of the lobby, then I landed on the carpet and I’m lucky, I think that saved me.”

Video of the explosion shows a large column of smoke billowing from an area of the port that houses large warehouses before a large orange explosion is seen and huge dome-shaped blast wave shoots into the air.

Glass storefronts and windowpanes across the city were shattered in the explosion, while videos and pictures shared on social media showed doors ripped from their hinges and ceilings filled with gaping holes.

A civil defence worker who has worked in the sector for 20 years was in disbelief at the scale of the damage.

“I’ve seen the assassinations and the explosions but this is something else. There is something wrong here,” the worker said.

The explosion in Beirut port comes as the country faces an unprecedented financial crisis and a surging coronavirus outbreak.

Located in the heart of capital, the port is a vital piece of infrastructure used to get scarce goods in the country.

There explosion damaged grains silos in the port which are a strategic reserve of wheat for the crisis-hit nation.

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