The horrifying explosion that rocked a building in the Port of Beirut looked like something out of a movie.
Videos capturing the event show a horrifying blast, ominous red smoke, and an aftershock that seemed like it could level a skyscraper.
Our friends at Fox News report that while the cause of the explosion is still currently unknown, the activities of terrorist organization, Hezbollah, are being scrutinized as a potential link:
A massive explosion shook Beirut on Tuesday, killing at least 70 people and injuring thousands of others while flattening much of the port, damaging buildings across the capital, and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky.
The cause of the explosion remains unclear. The Lebanese Red Cross tweeted that more than 30 teams were responding to the scene of the blast via ambulances.
The health minister said at least 70 people were killed and over 3,000 were injured.
Lebanese Red Cross official Georges Kettaneh said the injured were being taken to hospitals outside the capital because facilities there were at capacity. He put the number of casualties in the hundreds but said he did not have exact figures on dead or injured.
Abbas Ibrahim, chief of Lebanese General Security, said the explosion might have been caused by highly explosive material that was confiscated from a ship some time ago and stored at the port. Local television channel LBC said the material was sodium nitrate.
The blast was stunning even for a city that has seen civil war, suicide bombings and bombardment by Israel. It could be heard and felt as far away as Cyprus, more than 180 miles across the Mediterranean.
"It was a real horror show. I haven't seen anything like that since the days of the (civil) war," said Marwan Ramadan, who was about 550 yards from the port and was knocked off his feet by the force of the explosion.
Witnesses reported seeing a strange orange-colored cloud over the site after the explosion. Orange clouds of toxic nitrogen dioxide gas often accompany an explosion involving nitrates.
Video taken by residents showed a fire raging at the port, sending up a giant column of smoke, illuminated by flashes of what appear to be fireworks. Local TV stations reported that a fireworks warehouse was involved.
The fire then appeared to catch at a nearby building, triggering a more massive explosion, sending up a mushroom cloud and a shock wave.
Hours after the explosion ambulances were still carrying away the wounded. Officials said the city's hospitals were filled to capacity.
The afternoon blast shook several parts of the capital and thick smoke billowed from the city center. Residents reported windows being blown out, and balconies and ceilings collapsing. The explosion appeared to be centered around Beirut's port and caused wide-scale destruction and shattered windows miles away.
A civil defense official on the scene of the blast said his men had evacuated dozens to hospitals and that there were still bodies inside the port, many of them under debris.
Dozens of ambulances ferried the injured from the port area, where the wounded lay on the ground, Associated Press staff at the scene said. Hospitals were calling for blood donations.
“I saw a fireball and smoke billowing over Beirut. People were screaming and running, bleeding. Balconies were blown off buildings. Glass in high-rise buildings shattered and fell to the street,” one unnamed witness told Reuters.
“There are cars with dead people in the streets under rubble, and the medical infrastructure was already at full speed due to the pandemic and lack of supplies,” one source in the region said.
Another source told Fox News that the port was unofficially controlled by Hezbollah, thus pointing out that other adverse players in the region could have played a role.
An Israeli government official said Israel "had nothing to do" with the blast. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media. Israeli officials usually do not comment on "foreign reports."
An Associated Press photographer near the port witnessed people wounded on the ground and widespread destruction in central Beirut. Some local televisions stations reported the blast originated inside an area where firecrackers were stored."
Official casualty counts are still undetermined but there are reports of around 70 dead so far and thousands injured.
Breitbart News reports that hospitals, already strained by the Corona Virus, are unable to cope with the many injured flooding in:
Update 6:30pm Eastern: Casualty reports were updated throughout the day, with the New York Times counting at least 70 dead. Individual hospitals reported treating hundreds of injuries. The Red Cross estimated 2,500 injuries, declaring the incident a “huge catastrophe.” The Lebanese health ministry said there could be 4,000 wounded.
Among the dead identified so far was Nizar Najarian, the Lebanese Armenian secretary-general of the Christian political party Kateb. Najarian was in his office near the Port of Beirut when the explosion occurred.
The explosion was caught in a Christian service that was being streamed online due to coronavirus restrictions:
The original explanation of fireworks detonating in a warehouse was soon updated to include a massive chemical explosion, including ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse at the Port of Beirut ever since it was seized from a ship years ago, according to the interior ministry. The reddish-orange cloud hovering over the blast site was cited as evidence of a nitrate explosion.
The BBC quoted Lebanese President Michel Aoun calling it “unacceptable” that some 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate was stored in unsafe conditions at the port and forgotten. The cause of the initial explosion that evidently detonated the nitrate is still under investigation.
At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, President Donald Trump said the explosion “looks like a deadly attack” and said the United States “stands ready to assist Lebanon.”
An unnamed Israeli government official told the Washington Post that Israel had “no connection with the incident in Beirut, despite recent tensions with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah on its northern border.” According to a statement quoted by the BBC, the Israeli government has “approached Lebanon through international security and diplomatic channels and has offered the Lebanese government medical and humanitarian assistance.”
The Post also reported that Beirut governor Marwan Abboud said contact has been lost with a number of firefighters who responded to the scene"