Iain Dale 7pm - 10pm
At least 78 dead and nearly 4,000 injured following huge Beirut explosions
4 August 2020, 16:49
Massive explosions have shaken Lebanon's capital Beirut, with Lebanese Health Minister Hassan Hamad saying at least 78 people have been killed and nearly 4,000 injured.
The first reports out of hospitals in Beirut say that the emergency room is 'very busy', with hospitals saying they 'overwhelmed by casualties' and asking for blood donations.
Bodies are thought to be buried in the rubble, while most of those injured are said to have injuries from glass, some of which are deep injuries.
Hours later, ambulances still carried away the wounded as army helicopters helped battle fires raging at the port.
Lebanon's Health Ministry has put out a call for medics to volunteer at the "nearest place you can get to".
Lebanon's Prime Minister has also called for international support in the aftermath of the explosion.
"I make an urgent appeal to friendly and brotherly countries... to stand by Lebanon and to help us heal our deep wounds," Hassan Diab said.
"It's a major national disaster," he told reporters.
He also said: "I promise you that this catastrophe will not pass without accountability. ... Those responsible will pay the price."
Beirut's governor, Marwan Abboud, broke into tears as he toured the site, saying, "Beirut is a devastated city."
The epicentre of the explosion appears to be warehouses at the port - where it's reported chemicals were being stored.
The blasts flattened much of the port, damaged buildings and blown out windows and doors.
It was so massive that buildings have collapsed and windows were shattered 4km away.
Witnesses in the Lebanese capital saw many people injured by flying glass and debris.
One said it felt like "a nuclear bomb".
Videos on social media show a large mushroom cloud above the city and extensive damage.
The loud blast was felt across large parts of the city and some districts lost electricity.
A civil defence official on the scene of the blast said his men had evacuated dozens to hospitals and that there were still bodies inside the port, many of them under debris.
Firecrackers are stored in the area where the blast occurred, according to local TV reports.
Wounded people were seen on the ground near Beirut's port, according to an Associated Press photographer at the scene.
Lebanese media carried images of people trapped under rubble, some bloodied, after the massive explosion.
It cones at a time when Lebanon is passing through its worst economic and financial crisis in decades.
It also comes amid rising tensions between Israel and the militant Hezbollah group along Lebanon's southern border.
The Lebanese Red Cross tweeted after the incident: "We are receiving thousands of emergency calls following major explosion in Beirut". It urged the public to call the 140 line "only for critical and severe cases so we can help the people who need it most first."
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: "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."
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."
In a tweet written in Arabic, French President Emmanuel Macron said: I express my brotherly solidarity with the Lebanese people after the explosion, which caused a large number of casualties, this matter in Beirut, and caused serious damage. France has always stood by Lebanon.
"There is French aid, which is now being transferred to Lebanon."
After the incident, London mayor Said Khan tweeted: "Truly horrifying images coming from Beirut.
"I am sure I speak for all Londoners when I say our thoughts and prayers are with the city and its residents."
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: "My thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the devastating explosion in #Beirut today.
"The UK stands in solidarity with the people of Lebanon and is ready to offer help and support including to those British nationals impacted."
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.— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) August 4, 2020
The images of explosions in Beirut are deeply worrying.— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) August 4, 2020
Our thoughts are with those affected, the emergency services and the people of Lebanon.
My thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the devastating explosion in #Beirut today. The UK 🇬🇧 stands in solidarity with the people of Lebanon 🇱🇧 and is ready to offer help and support including to those British nationals impacted.— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) August 4, 2020
Truly horrifying images coming from Beirut. I am sure I speak for all Londoners when I say our thoughts and prayers are with the city and its residents.— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) August 4, 2020
Ahmad Azeem, who works as a TV producer in the city, told LBC News: "This explosion was different. It is not a normal explosion.
"It broke the glass, it smashed houses, stores, malls, companies. Everything is destroyed."
He continued: "It was just horrible. Just a big amount of smoke and then everything is destroyed. The area is like a war zone now."
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.
"(It was) like a nuclear bomb," he said.
"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."
Mr Roumieh said the blast appeared to be centred on the city's port.
He added that the incident has been compounded by the current political climate in the city amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"And the emotional trauma to this city is what's worst," he added.
"On top of the pandemic.
"The total economic meltdown.
"And currency devaluation."
A photographer near the port saw people lying injured on the ground and hospitals have called for blood donations.
Israeli officials have said the explosion was nothing to do with them.
This is horrific, and the clearest video I’ve seen so far of what seems to have happened in Beirut. There’s a smaller fire involving what seems to be fireworks first, and then everything goes up. pic.twitter.com/qsEmH1IbUi— Rachael Venables (@rachaelvenables) August 4, 2020
The souks in downtown Beirut- an upscale shopping area. Totally wrecked. pic.twitter.com/AqIOJLzNTO— DavidKenner (@DavidKenner) August 4, 2020
Video taken by residents showed a fire raging at the port, sending up a giant column of smoke, illuminated by flashes of what appear to be fireworks.
The fire then appeared to catch at a nearby building, triggering a more massive explosion, sending up a mushroom cloud and a shock wave over the city.
Residents have reported on social media that their windows have been blown out and ceilings have collapsed.
Miles from the scene of the blast, balconies were also knocked down.
A video on social media also showed a shopping centre with its windows blown out.
"Buildings are shaking," tweeted one resident, while another wrote: "An enormous, deafening explosion just engulfed Beirut. Heard it from miles away".
Online footage from a Lebanese newspaper office showed blown out windows, scattered furniture and demolished interior panelling.