Beirut, August 4 (Reuters) – A huge explosion near the centre of Beirut killed at least 10 people, injured hundreds and sent shockwaves across the Lebanese capital, shattering windows and causing apartment balconies to collapse, witnesses and security sources said.
The most powerful explosion to hit Beirut in years shook the ground, leaving some residents thinking an earthquake had struck. Dazed and weeping, some of them wounded, people walked through streets checking to see if relatives were hurt.
The blast occurred in the city’s port area, where there were warehouses housing explosives, Lebanon’s state news agency NNA and two security sources said. A third security source said there were chemicals stored in the area.
The health minister told Reuters there was a “very high number” of injured. Al Mayadeen TV said hundreds were wounded.
Another Reuters witness said she saw heavy grey smoke near the port area and then heard an explosion and saw flames and black smoke: “All the downtown area windows are smashed and there are wounded people walking around. It is total chaos.”
U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters it was not immediately clear what the cause was, and that there was no indication of any injuries to any U.N. personnel.
“We do not have information about what has happened precisely, what has caused this, whether it’s accidental or manmade act,” he said.
The U.S. Pentagon said: “We are aware of the explosion and are concerned for the potential loss of life due to such a massive explosion.”
In Cyprus, an island lying west of Lebanon, residents reported two large bangs in quick succession. One resident of the capital Nicosia said his house shook, rattling shutters.