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At Least 100 Dead, Thousands Wounded In Huge Explosion That Rocked Beirut

Smoke rises after an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon August 4, 2020, in this picture obtained from a social media video.

A Lebanese Red Cross official said on Wednesday that at least 100 people have been killed and more than 4,000 wounded in the huge Beirut explosion the previous day.

The blast damaged buildings and blew out windows and doors of residences in areas of the Lebanese capital kilometers away from where it occurred.

Tuesday evening, Lebanese Health Minister Hamad Hassan had said at least 50 were killed and 2,700 were injured in the blast.

The huge explosion occurred in a port warehouse district.

Lebanon's interior minister said initial information indicated that highly explosive material -- seized years ago and stored at the port -- had blown up.

Local TV stations reported that a fireworks warehouse was involved.

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab called it a “big catastrophe” and said those responsible will be punished.

Dozens have been transported to hospitals and there are still people buried under debris in the port.

Diab called on other nation’s to provide support to Beirut.

The U.S. State Department said it was closely following reports about the explosion and stands ready to offer assistance, a spokesperson said, according to Reuters. Israel and France also say they have offered humanitarian aid.

Video shared on social media shows a fire raging at the port with a giant column of smoke billowing from it and flashes of what appear to be fireworks. As the fire intensifies, it appears to spread to other buildings and then ignite a powerful explosion.

The blast came at a time when Lebanon’s economy is facing collapse in the wake of a financial crisis and coronavirus restrictions. People have seen their savings evaporate as the currency has plunged in value against the dollar.

It also comes amid rising tensions between Israel and the militant Hizballah group along Lebanon’s southern border.

Based on reporting by AP, Reuters, dpa, and AFP