Beirut blast 'may have been caused by rocket or bomb' Lebanese president says

7 August 2020, 12:39

Rescue dogs are searching the rubble in Beirut
Rescue dogs are searching the rubble in Beirut. Picture: AP

By Ewan Somerville

Lebanon's President has said there is a "possibility" Tuesday's explosion could have been caused by a rocket or bomb.

Michel Aoun said: "The cause has not been determined yet.

"There is a possibility of external interference through a rocket or bomb or other act".

The explosion in the capital's port has so far killed at least 154 people, injured 5,000 and left 300,000 homeless.

The government had previously said the source of the explosion was 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, an explosive fertiliser, which had been unsafely stored in a warehouse for a number of years.

Rescuers drafted in from various countries are still searching rubble for dozens still missing. Officials have estimated losses at 10 billion to 15 billion US dollars.

Beirut has been devastated by the blast
Beirut has been devastated by the blast. Picture: AP

Damaged hospitals, already strained by the coronavirus pandemic, are still struggling to deal with the wounded.

The government has given an "investigation committee" four days to produce answers on the cause of the blast. The port manager is among a total of 16 people have been arrested so far, according to state media, with 18 questioned.

But protests erupted on Thursday, seeing security forces fire tear gas at anti-government demonstrators claiming the cause of the blast and its probe are mired in corruption.

Earlier this week US president Donald Trump called the blast a "terrible attack" and claimed "it was a bomb of some kind". The claim was widely criticised as lacking substance.

The US, UK and France have all pledged substantial sums in aid for Beirut, which was already reeling form coronavirus and economic crisis before the disaster.