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Sifting Beirut's rubble for bodies: Over 100 people are killed and thousands hurt after 'welder' sparks warehouse fire that ignited 2,700 tons of highly explosive chemicals 'seized from a ship' causing 3 kiloton blast - a fifth the size of Hiroshima bomb (45 Pics)

Survivors of a massive explosion that devastated the Lebanese capital of Beirut last night were picking through the remains of their city for victims today as the death toll topped 100 and was expected to continue rising, with more than 4,000 wounded.
The city, once known as the Paris of the Middle East, resembled a huge scrapyard as the sun rose on Wednesday - with barely a building left unscathed in a blast caused by 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that exploded with a fifth of the power of the atomic bomb that levelled Hiroshima.
Street after street, neighbourhood after neighbourhood, buildings were left without roofs or windows, their interiors shredded by the force of the explosion - believed to have been sparked when a welder caused a fire at the port, which in turn set light to a warehouse storing chemicals which had been seized from a ship six years ago.
After a night of shock and awe, the full scale of the calamity now facing Lebanon - a country that was already in the midst of an economic crisis - was laid bare at dawn, as hospitals struggled to cope with the influx of wounded and the threat of recriminations hung in the air, along with smoke from still-burning fires. 
Prime Minister Hassan Diab vowed those responsible will 'pay the price' as he declared a two-week state of emergency to deal with the crisis. 
The United States, the UK, France, the Gulf states and even bitter rivals Israel have offered aid to the country, which is already grappling with twin economic and coronavirus crises. 
President Michel Aoun declared three days of mourning, and announced he would release 100 billion lira ($66 million) of emergency funds. 
General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim earlier said the 'highly explosive material' had been confiscated years earlier, reportedly from a ship.
President Donald Trump last night called the explosion a 'terrible attack' and said US generals had told him it appeared to have been caused by a 'bomb of some kind', without offering evidence. 


Survivors of the blast which devastated Beirut overnight were sifting through the ruins of the city on Wednesday for bodies as the death toll rose to 100 with more than 4,000 wounded, and hospitals struggling to cope
Survivors of the blast which devastated Beirut overnight were sifting through the ruins of the city on Wednesday for bodies as the death toll rose to 100 with more than 4,000 wounded, and hospitals struggling to cope 
Dramatic footage on social media shows people screaming as an enormous blast rocks the waterside area of Lebanon's capital city
Dramatic footage shows smoke billowing from the port area shortly before an enormous fireball explodes into the sky and blankets the city in a thick mushroom cloud
A warehouse fire sparked by a welder set light to 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that was being stored at the city's port, causing an explosion with force roughly equal to a fifth of the atomic bomb which levelled Hiroshima
The port was almost completely destroyed in the explosion, blowing a reinforced concrete silo used to store grain to pieces (pictured) along with the surrounding buildings
The port was almost completely destroyed in the explosion, blowing a reinforced concrete silo used to store grain to pieces (pictured) along with the surrounding buildings
Fires were still burning at the destroyed port on Wednesday morning as the full extent of the devastation - in a country that was already in the midst of an economic crisis - was laid bare
Fires were still burning at the destroyed port on Wednesday morning as the full extent of the devastation - in a country that was already in the midst of an economic crisis - was laid bare
Lebanese soldiers picked through the rubble of buildings for bodies, with the death toll expected to rise further
Lebanese soldiers picked through the rubble of buildings for bodies, with the death toll expected to rise further
Survivors of the blast walk the streets of the city, looking for victims amid the ruins of their old neighbourhoods
Survivors of the blast walk the streets of the city, looking for victims amid the ruins of their old neighbourhoods
Wounded people are treated at a hospital following the explosion, which has left hundreds of casualties in Beirut last night
Wounded people are treated at a hospital following the explosion, which has left hundreds of casualties in Beirut last night
A Lebanese army helicopter flies over the site of the blast in Beirut's port area on Wednesday morning as smoke still rises from the rubble
A Lebanese army helicopter flies over the site of the blast in Beirut's port area on Wednesday morning as smoke still rises from the rubble
Firefighters spent the night battling blazes at the port, which were still burning as the sun came up on Wednesday
Firefighters spent the night battling blazes at the port, which were still burning as the sun came up on Wednesday 


A destroyed facade of a building is seen following the blast on Tuesday. Rescuers worked throughout the night to find people amid the devastation
A destroyed facade of a building is seen following the blast on Tuesday. Rescuers worked throughout the night to find people amid the devastation
Police and forensic officers work at the scene of an explosion on Wednesday morning and rescuers continue to look for survivors

Police and forensic officers work at the scene of an explosion on Wednesday morning and rescuers continue to look for survivors

The U.S. embassy in Beirut warned residents in the city about reports of toxic gases released by the blast, urging people to stay indoors and wear masks if available. 
Critical infrastructure was affected by the blast, including the port, the airport and hospitals.
Firefighters had already been on the scene dealing with an initial blaze when the explosion took place. One security source told Reuters today that the initial fire was caused during welding work on a hole in a warehouse wall.
That fire spread, and before firefighters could control it, apparently detonated the ammonium nitrate. 
One Israeli bomb expert suggested fireworks could have been involved in the initial blaze.
Explosives certification expert Boaz Hayoun said: 'Before the big explosion ... in the center of the fire, you can see sparks, you can hear sounds like popcorn and you can hear whistles. This is very specific behavior of fireworks.'
After the second, more devastating explosion, images showed port buildings reduced to tangled masonry, devastating the main entry point to a country that relies on food imports to feed its population of more than six million. 
Charbel Haj, who works at the harbour, said the explosion started as small explosions like firecrackers before he was suddenly thrown off his feet by the huge blast. 
The explosion damaged the Roum Hospital, which put out a call for people to bring it spare generators to keep its electricity going as it evacuated patients because of heavy damage.
Outside the St George University Hospital in Beirut's Achrafieh neighbuorhood, people with various injuries arrived in ambulances, in cars and on foot.
The explosion had caused major damage inside the building and knocked out the electricity at the hospital. Dozens of injured were being treated on the spot on the street outside, on stretchers and wheelchairs.   
Lebanon's Red Cross said it had been drowning in calls from injured people, many who are still trapped in their homes.  
Miles from the scene of the blast, balconies were knocked down, ceiling collapsed and windows were shattered.  
Beirut's main airport, six miles away from the port, was reportedly damaged by the explosion, with pictures showing sections of collapsed ceiling. 
Beirut's governor told journalists he does not know the cause of the explosion and said he had never seen such destruction, comparing the sobering scenes to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  
Local Fady Roumieh was stood in the car park to shopping centre ABC Mall Achrafieh, around 2km east of the blast, when the explosion occurred.
He said: 'It was like a nuclear bomb. The damage is so widespread and severe all over the city. 
'Some buildings as far as 2km are partially collapsed. It's like a war zone. The damage is extreme. Not one glass window intact.' 
A soldier at the port, where relatives of the missing scrambled for news of their loved ones, said: 'It's a catastrophe inside. There are corpses on the ground. Ambulances are still lifting the dead.'
A woman in her twenties stood screaming at security forces, asking about the fate of her brother, a port employee.
'His name is Jad, his eyes are green,' she pleaded, to no avail as officers refused her entry.
'It was like an atomic bomb,' said Makrouhie Yerganian, a retired schoolteacher in her mid-70s who has lived near the port for decades.
'I've experienced everything, but nothing like this before,' even during the country's 1975-1990 civil war, she said.
'All the buildings around here have collapsed.'  
One witness said: '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.' 
Rami Rifai, a 38-year-old engineer,from a hospital where his two daughters were receiving treatment after sustaining cuts despite being half a kilometre from the seat of the blast said: 'We've had some dark days in Lebanon over the years but this is something else.
'We already had the economic crisis, a government of thieves and coronavirus. I didn't think it could get worse but now I don't know if this country can get up again. Everyone is going to try to leave. I will try to leave,' he said, his voice choked by tears.
One resident of Mar Mikhail, one of the most affected neighbourhoods, said she saw bodies strewn in the middle of the street, apparently thrown off balconies and rooftops by the blast. 
For a long time after the blast, ambulance sirens sounded across the city and helicopters hovered above. 
Residents said glass was broken in houses from Raouche, on the Mediterranean city's western tip, to Rabieh 10 km (6 miles) east). 
And in Cyprus, a Mediterranean island lying 110 miles (180 km) northwest of Beirut, residents reported hearing two large bangs in quick succession. 
One resident of the capital Nicosia said his house shook, rattling shutters.  
'We do not have information about what has happened precisely, what has caused this, whether its accidental or manmade act,' he said. 
Condolences poured in from across the world with Gulf nations, the United States and even Lebanon's arch foe Israel offering to send aid. France also promised to send assistance.
The blast revived memories of a 1975-90 civil war and its aftermath, when Lebanese endured heavy shelling, car bombings and Israeli air raids. Some residents thought an earthquake had struck. 
'The blast blew me off metres away. I was in a daze and was all covered in blood. It brought back the vision of another explosion I witnessed against the U.S. embassy in 1983,' said Huda Baroudi, a Beirut designer. 
Footage shows a thick column of smoke rising from the port before an explosion sends a fireball into the sky
A general view of the harbor area with smoke billowing from an area of a large explosion, with damage and debris after a large explosion rocked the harbor area of Beirut
A general view of the harbor area with smoke billowing from an area of a large explosion, with damage and debris after a large explosion rocked the harbor area of Beirut
Lebanese firefighters work at the scene of explosion at the Beirut Port, Beirut following the huge explosion yesterday evening
Lebanese firefighters work at the scene of explosion at the Beirut Port, Beirut following the huge explosion yesterday evening 
An injured man covered in blood is seen in Beirut following the explosion in Beirut on Tuesday
An injured man covered in blood is seen in Beirut following the explosion in Beirut on Tuesday
A man reacts at the scene of an explosion at the port in Lebanon's capital Beirut on August 4
A man reacts at the scene of an explosion at the port in Lebanon's capital Beirut on August 4
Glass is shattered by the explosion at the Cavalier Hotel in Beirut following the explosion
Glass is shattered by the explosion at the Cavalier Hotel in Beirut following the explosion 
Pictures shows the scene of an explosion at the port in the Lebanese capital Beirut, which lay waste to surrounding buildings
Pictures shows the scene of an explosion at the port in the Lebanese capital Beirut, which lay waste to surrounding buildings
Firefighters spray water at a fire after an explosion was heard in Beirut
Firefighters spray water at a fire after an explosion was heard in Beirut
Medics shift an injured person from Najjar Hospital to another hospital in Al-Hamra area in Beirut after several hospitals were damaged in the blast
Medics shift an injured person from Najjar Hospital to another hospital in Al-Hamra area in Beirut after several hospitals were damaged in the blast  
UN chief Antonio Guterres expressed his 'deepest condolences ... following the horrific explosions in Beirut' which he said had also injured some United Nations personnel. 
Boris Johnson offered to help the crisis-hit country, tweeting: 'The pictures and videos from Beirut tonight are shocking. 
'All of my thoughts and prayers are with those caught up in this terrible incident. The UK is ready to provide support in any way we can, including to those British nationals affected.' 
The UK Foreign Office has said a few of its embassy staff sustained non-life threatening injuries in the blast. 
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said in a tweet: 'The images of explosions in Beirut are deeply worrying. Our thoughts are with those affected, the emergency services and the people of Lebanon.' 
Offers of aid also came from bitter rivals Israel, with which it is still technically at war. 
Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, on behalf of the State of Israel, have offered the Lebanese government - via international intermediaries - medical and humanitarian aid, as well as immediate emergency assistance,' said a joint statement from the two ministries. 
Last week, Israel accused the Lebanese group Hezbollah of trying to send gunmen across the UN-demarcated Blue Line and said it held the Lebanese government responsible for what it termed an attempted 'terrorist' attack. 
Hezbollah said all of the country's political powers must unite to overcome the 'painful catastrophe'. 
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that France stood 'alongside Lebanon' and was ready to help, tweeting: 'France stands and will always stand by the side of Lebanon and the Lebanese. It is ready to provide assistance according to the needs expressed by the Lebanese authorities. 
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted: 'We are monitoring and stand ready to assist the people of Lebanon as they recover from this horrible tragedy.'
Iran's foreign minister has said it is standing by to help Lebanon recover from the fallout of the explosion.
Countries in the Gulf paid tribute to victims of the explosion as Qatar said it would send field hospitals to support Lebanon's medical response.
Qatar's ruler Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani called President Michel Aoun to offer condolences, according to the state-run Qatar News Agency.
Sheikh Tamim wished 'a speedy recovery for the injured,' adding that he 'expressed Qatar's solidarity with brotherly Lebanon and its willingness to provide all kinds of assistance'. 
Buildings and cars are partially destroyed in the neighbourhood of Mar Mikhael following an explosion at the port of Beirut last night
Buildings and cars are partially destroyed in the neighbourhood of Mar Mikhael following an explosion at the port of Beirut last night 
Firefighters douse a blaze at the city's port tonight following the deadly explosion which has wreaked devestation on Beirut
Firefighters douse a blaze at the city's port tonight following the deadly explosion which has wreaked devestation on Beirut
Smoke billows from harbor area with damage and debris after a large explosion rocked the harbor of Beirut
Smoke billows from harbor area with damage and debris after a large explosion rocked the harbor of Beirut
The thick plume of smoke looms over the city of Beirut on Tuesday evening after the explosion at the port
The thick plume of smoke looms over the city of Beirut on Tuesday evening after the explosion at the port
A view shows the damages entrance of a store in Burj Abu Haidar area in Beirut
A view shows the damages entrance of a store in Burj Abu Haidar area in Beirut
Elsewhere in the Gulf, the United Arab Emirates' Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted that 'our hearts are with Beirut and its people'.
He posted the tribute alongside an image of Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, illuminated in the colours of the Lebanese flag.
'Our prayers during these difficult hours are that God... protects brotherly Lebanon and the Lebanese to reduce their affliction and heal their wounds,' he wrote.
Gulf countries including Qatar and the UAE maintain close ties with Beirut and have long provided financial aid and diplomatic assistance to mediate Lebanon's political and sectarian divisions.
Bahrain's foreign ministry urged its nationals in Lebanon to contact the ministry's operations centre or Manama's representative in Beirut, while Kuwait ordered its citizens to take extreme caution and stay indoors. 
It comes just days before a United Nations tribunal is set to rule on the assassination of the country's former PM Rafik Hariri.
The house of his son, Saad Hariri, who also led the country, was damaged by the blast but he was confirmed safe.
Save the Children said in a statement that members of their team on the ground in the city have reported entire streets destroyed and children unaccounted for.
Despite the charity's offices in the city being badly damaged, they have pledged that a rapid response team is ready to offer support.
Jad Sakr, Save the Children's country director in Lebanon, said: 'We are shocked and devastated by the explosion today.
'The death toll may not be known for several days but we do know is that in a disaster like this, children may be hurt, shocked and separated from their parents.
'Our child protection teams are ready to support the government's efforts, which will almost certainly go on for several days to come.
'It is vital that children and their families get access to the services they urgently need, including medical care and physical and emotional protection.'
He added: 'The incident could not have occurred at a worst time and has hit communities who were already suffering from the impact of the Covid-19 crisis and the economic deterioration.
'Beirut's main port, now completely damaged, is vital for much of the food, grains and fuel that Lebanon imports, and families will immediately feel the shortage in basic needs as a result of this tragedy.'
Lebanese President Michel Aoun holds a High Defence Council meeting at the Baabda Palace following the blast
Lebanese President Michel Aoun holds a High Defence Council meeting at the Baabda Palace following the blast
A car if left flipped on its roof on a motorway as a result of the devastating impact of the explosion yesterday
A car if left flipped on its roof on a motorway as a result of the devastating impact of the explosion yesterday
A mobile phone image showing a general view of the harbor area with smoke billowing from an area of a large exoplosion, with damage and debris after a large explosion rocked the harbor area of Beirut
A mobile phone image showing a general view of the harbor area with smoke billowing from an area of a large exoplosion, with damage and debris after a large explosion rocked the harbor area of Beirut
People on the street in Beirue which is strewn with debris from damaged buildings following the explosion
People on the street in Beirue which is strewn with debris from damaged buildings following the explosion
The loud blast in Beirut's port area was felt across large parts of the city and some districts lost electricity
The loud blast in Beirut's port area was felt across large parts of the city and some districts lost electricity
The health minister told Reuters there was a "very high number" of injured. Al Mayadeen TV said hundreds were wounded
The health minister told Reuters there was a 'very high number' of injured. Al Mayadeen TV said hundreds were wounded
Witnesses have reported bystanders injured by falling debris from buildings and shards of glass flying towards people after the shockwave smashed out windows
Witnesses have reported bystanders injured by falling debris from buildings and shards of glass flying towards people after the shockwave smashed out windows
A wounded man walks near the scene of an explosion in Beirut
A wounded man walks near the scene of an explosion in Beirut
A large explosion rocked the Lebanese capital Beirut last night. The blast, which rattled entire buildings and broke glass, was felt in several parts of the city
A large explosion rocked the Lebanese capital Beirut last night. The blast, which rattled entire buildings and broke glass, was felt in several parts of the city

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