A massive explosion rocked downtown Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital.
Lebanese Red Cross official Georges Kettaneh said there were dead and wounded, but did not have an exact figure, just saying there were hundreds of casualties.
A civil defense 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.
The cause of the blast was not immediately known.
It was stunning even for a city that has been shaken by civil war, suicide bombings and bombardment by Israel.
Dozens of ambulances ferried the injured from the port area, where the wounded lay on the ground, Associated Press staff at the scene said. Hospitals called for blood donations.
The head of the Lebanese Red Cross told local TV there were hundreds of casualties although many were superficial wounds from broken glass.
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. Local TV stations reported that a fireworks warehouse was involved.
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.
“It was like a nuclear explosion,” said Walid Abdo, a 43–year–old school teacher in the neighborhood of Gemayzeh near Beirut.