An explosion in Beirut's port area has left thousands of people injured and unknown more dead. It began just after 6 p.m. Tuesday local time when a warehouse, housing either fireworks or some other explosives, caught fire. Social media video showed it triggering a massive explosion.
A giant mushroom cloud rose above Beirut, leaving buildings gutted. With emergency sirens wailing, rescue workers raced to assist victims. Beirut's governor called it a "national catastrophe."
Lebanon's health minister quickly confirmed dozens of people were dead and thousands were injured. A staggering number of casualties, even in a country that has seen a rise in violence.
While initial reports blamed a fireworks warehouse fire, a Lebanese government security official reported that confiscated "high explosive materials" were stored in the area.
Dozens of Red Cross emergency teams responded to collapsed structures and fires. As bloodied victims emerged outside, rescuers went inside damaged and dangerous buildings in search of more people needing help.
Witnesses report the damage extends as far as 6 miles away. Journalists who work in Beirut said this seemed bigger than just fireworks exploding.
The damage could further cripple Lebanon's economy, which is already in free-fall due to a monetary crisis and coronavirus. The country is also affected by recently escalating tensions between Hezbollah and Israel.
Investigations are now underway into the explosions and cause.