Death toll from Beirut blast rises past 100

Blast damages value ranges between $3-5bn; 300,000 people displaced: City governor


BEIRUT — The death toll from the Beirut blast has risen to over 100 with more than 4,000 people being wounded, according to the state-run National News Agency (NNA), which cited the Red Cross.

“What we are witnessing is a huge catastrophe,” the head of Lebanon’s Red Cross George Kettani told a local broadcaster. “There are victims and casualties everywhere.”

The death toll is expected to continue rising throughout the day, said Health Minister Hamad Hassan in a phone interview Wednesday morning with one of Lebanon's national television channels.

"There are many people missing until now. People are asking the emergency department about their loved ones and it is difficult to search at night because there is no electricity. We are facing a real catastrophe and need time to assess the extent of damages," Hasan said in a Reuters report.

A massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday evening, tearing through the entire city, flipping cars, shattering glass and causing some homes to crumble. Damaged buildings include the headquarters of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Homes as far as 10 kilometers away were damaged, according to witnesses.

The blast was even felt in Cyprus, around 240 km (150 miles) away, and registered as a 3.3 magnitude earthquake.

The blast has been linked to a large supply of confiscated and potentially unsecured explosive material, stored in a warehouse at the city's port, close to populated areas. As world leaders and international organizations step in to offer assistance, local officials are also launching an investigation into the blast.

The value of damages caused by the explosion ranges between $3 billion and $5 billion, Beirut’s Governor Marwan Abboud was quoted as saying by Lebanese National News Agency.

“I think there are between 250,000 and 300,000 people who are now without homes,” Abboud said.

The governor also said that at least 10 firefighters working for Beirut's municipality are missing after the explosion, adding that the scene reminded him of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Engineers and technical teams have yet to conduct an official assessment, Abbou said, adding that damage from the blast in the port area seems to have extended over half of the city. — Agencies