By Romy Gutenberg,
A huge warehouse explosion in Beirut sent a devastating blast wave across Beirut, killing at least 100 people and injuring nearly 4,000.
President Michel Aoun said 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, used in fertilizers and bombs, had been stored for six years at the port without safety measures.
He told the nation the government was “determined to investigate and expose what happened as soon as possible, to hold the responsible and the negligent accountable, and to sanction them with the most severe punishment.”
Officials said the toll was expected to rise after Tuesday’s blast at port warehouses that stored highly explosive material.
It sent a mushroom cloud into the sky and rattled windows on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, about 100 miles (160 km) away.
Lebanese rescue workers dug through the mangled wreckage of buildings on Wednesday looking for survivors.
The head of Lebanon’s Red Cross, George Kettani, said at least 100 people were killed and search efforts continued.
The Red Cross was coordinating with the Health Ministry to set up morgues because hospitals were overwhelmed, Kettani said.
Offers of international support poured in. Gulf Arab states sent planes with medical equipment and other supplies. Iran offered food and a field hospital, the United States, Britain, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and other Western nations, also offered help.
The blast was the most powerful ever to rip through Beirut and it is a dreadful reminder of the 1975 to 1990 civil war that tore the nation apart and destroyed swathes of Beirut, much of which had been rebuilt.
The U.S. embassy, which moved to another part of Beirut after a bomb attack struck its original waterfront embassy in 1983, warned about reports of toxic gases released by the port blast.