An explosion ripped through the port in the Lebanese capital and up to 300,000 people are now homeless. Rescue teams are searching through the rubble for survivors.
- Massive blast destroys Beirut’s port
- Hospitals struggle to cope with the thousands of wounded
- Prime Minister says 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse caused the blasts
- The blast damage extends over half of the city
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel “dismayed” by the explosion
All updates in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)
13:28 German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been left “dismayed” by the blast in the Lebanese capital.
“I was very dismayed to learn of the severe explosion in Beirut, which has claimed many victims,” wrote Merkel in a letter of condolence to the Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab.
“In this difficult time, you can count on the help and support of the German government,” Merkel added.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the German newspaper Bild that he had been in contact with his Lebanese equivalent about “how Germany can now help quickly and without red tape.”
“With the German Armed Forces and our humanitarian workers, we are looking at how we can provide further help for clearing up and supplying the civilian population,” Maas said. “The images of the devastation in Beirut hit us right in the heart, they hurt.”
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier wrote to his Lebanese counterpart Michel Aoun.
“The images of the massive destruction in the middle of the city shook me deeply,” Steinmeier said, as part of a message where he also expressed his condolences to the family and friends of the victims.
“I wish you and your citizens strength and confidence in these difficult times.”
13:01 The chief executive and director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), Volker Perthes, has told DW that it is “important for Europe that Lebanon becomes a stable country again,” in the wake of the deadly explosion in Beirut.
The Middle East expert has called on the IMF, the World Bank, and the EU to “speed up negotiations” over economic support and reforms of the political system.
Perthes also warned that Lebanon’s problems will have an impact on Europe, saying: “Economic, political and social crises do not tend to stay inside that country, but migrate, in a way, to Europe.”
In the near future, the international affairs specialist expects that “protests against the government and the way Lebanon is governed will increase.”
He added the main question now “is whether the Lebanese political elite is prepared to give up some of their privileges, some of their fiefs, and actually get into a conversation with Lebanese civil society about reform in the country.”
12:07 French President Emmanuel Macron will travel to Beirut on Thursday and will meet the country’s senior political figures, his office has announced.
Macron, who spoke to Lebanese President Michel Aoun shortly after the explosion at the port, has already sent emergency assistance to the country.
Lebanon is a former French protectorate and, as a result, France maintains close relations with the country through political and economic ties.
11:25 The EU has expressed its “shock and sadness” after the “deadly explosion” while pledging to send “over a 100 highly trained firefighters, with vehicles, dogs and equipment.”
The European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic said: “We share the shock and sadness of the people of Beirut following the deadly explosion that has taken many lives and left many more injured. Our condolences go to all those that have lost loved ones.
“At this difficult time, the European Union offers its full support to the Lebanese people.”
The bloc is activating its civil protection system to round up emergency workers and equipment to help Beirut. The Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Poland and the Netherlands have already agreed to take part and the EU has called on others to join.
11:20 Gulf states including Qatar and Kuwait have dispatched aid to Lebanon. Kuwait’s ministry of health said aid arrived by military plane on Wednesday morning, and the Kuwaiti Red Crescent said it would offer whatever help Lebanon needed.
Meanwhile, Qatar’s state news agency QNA said the country had dispatched a first military plane carrying medical aid. Three more planes are expected to follow later in the day, containing two field hospitals of 500 beds each and equipped with respirators.
Turkey has also pledged to send aid. Its Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) is helping to search for survivors, digging through debris to look for people and recover bodies. “We are providing assistance with one ambulance to transfer patients,” said Mustafa Ozbek, an Istanbul-based IHH official. “We may provide help according to the needs of the hospital.”
Meanwhile neighboring Cyprus additionally offered to send medical aid and teams to Lebanon. “Cyprus is ready to accept injured persons for treatment and send medical teams if required,” Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides told state broadcaster CyBC.
Christodoulides added that the Cypriot embassy in Beirut, which was closed at the time of the blast, was extensively damaged. The explosion was heard throughout Cyprus, which is located around 100 miles (160 kilometers) away from Lebanon.
Iraq is set to send six trucks of urgent medical supplies and an emergency medical team, according to the country’s health ministry spokesman. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi also offered his condolences, according to a statement from his office.
10:59 Several international troops and the Dutch Ambassador to Lebanon were among those seriously injured in the blast.
People serving in the United Nations Interim Force and the Bangladesh Navy were injured in the explosion.
Bangladesh’s military said 21 Navy members of the multinational force were wounded, one of whom is in a critical condition. Bangladesh Navy members have been working in Lebanon with the UN force since 2010 to prevent entry of illegal arms and ammunition.
Additionally, Italy’s defense minister Lorenzo Guerini said that one soldier assigned to Italy’s contingent in Lebanon was injured. Italy is the second largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon after Indonesia, with 1,021 troops deployed.
The wife of the Dutch ambassador to Lebanon was also seriously injured in Beirut, the Dutch Foreign Ministry said.
A spokesman said she had been admitted to hospital and that the explosion had caused significant damage to the Dutch embassy, also wounding four other people connected to it.
10:30 Lebanon’s main grain silo at the port was demolished in the explosion along with the wheat inside, leaving the beleaguered country with less than a month’s reserves of the grain, the economy minister said.
Raoul Nehme said that Lebanon needed reserves for at least three months to maintain food security. However, after the blast there are only enough reserves for “a bit less than a month” for a nation of more than six million people.
The explosion was the most powerful ever to rip through Beirut, leaving the harbor a wreck, disabling the main entry port for imports to feed the country.
10:18 Germany has announced it is sending an urban rescue team to Beirut. The Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) will help with efforts to “search and recover” people from the wreckage, a spokesman said after a meeting of the German government’s crisis unit.
The team will consist of 47 people and could leave as early as today, the spokesman added. It will “support the crisis management of the embassy” with deliveries and services.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has contacted his Lebanese counterpart, the spokesman added.