Beirut explosion rocks Lebanon's capital city

By Tara John, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Veronica Rocha, Meg Wagner, Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Zamira Rahim and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 8:59 a.m. ET, August 6, 2020
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5:43 a.m. ET, August 5, 2020

At least 73 killed in Beirut blast

From CNN's Charbel Mallo

Ambulances drive past the site of the explosion.
Ambulances drive past the site of the explosion. Hassan Ammar/AP

The death toll in the massive blast that shook Beirut has reached 73, the Lebanese national broadcaster TeleLiban reported citing Health Minister Hamad Hassan.

The minister said earlier today that at least 2,750 had been injured in the explosion.


4:55 p.m. ET, August 4, 2020

US Embassy in Beirut asks people to wear masks due to reports of toxic gases

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

People ride past a car destroyed after a building wall collapsed on August 4.
People ride past a car destroyed after a building wall collapsed on August 4. Daniel Carde/Getty Images

The US Embassy in Beirut is urging those in the area of the explosion to “stay indoors and wear masks if available” due to reports of toxic gases released from the blast.

An embassy security alert went out following the explosion.

"There are reports of toxic gases released in the explosion so all in the area should stay indoors and wear masks if available," the embassy warned.

The embassy also urged US citizens in the affected areas to "contact their loved ones directly and/or update their status on social media."

4:41 p.m. ET, August 4, 2020

Israel's President Rivlin: "We share the pain of the Lebanese people"

From Amir Tal and Andrew Carey in Jerusalem

Israel is offering humanitarian medical assistance to Lebanon following the massive blast in Beirut Tuesday afternoon, even though the two countries have no diplomatic relations.

“Under the direction of Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz, and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gabi Ashkenazi, Israel approached Lebanon through international defense and diplomatic channels to offer the Lebanese government medical humanitarian aid,” a statement read.

Following the announcement, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin tweeted, “We share the pain of the Lebanese people and sincerely reach out to offer our aid at this difficult time.”

Lebanon is one of a small number of countries Israel regards as an enemy state, and there have been no diplomatic relations since a ceasefire signed between the two countries in 1949.

As recently as last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was warning that Lebanon, along with Hezbollah, bore “full responsibility” for what the Israeli army described as an infiltration by a Hezbollah cell into Israeli territory.

4:26 p.m. ET, August 4, 2020

Organization warns children "may be hurt" and separated from parents after explosion

From CNN's Jomana Karadsheh in Istanbul and Mia Alberti in Lisbon

A view of a damaged street and buildings caused by a massive explosion in Beirut's port.
A view of a damaged street and buildings caused by a massive explosion in Beirut's port. Marwan Naamani/dpa/Alamy Live News

The aid agency Save the Children warned of children unaccounted for after a deadly explosion in Beirut that "wiped out entire streets," according to a statement from the organization.

"We are shocked and devastated by the explosion today. The death toll may not be known for several days but what we do know is that in a disaster like this, children may be hurt, shocked, and separated from their parents," said Jad Sakr, the organization's director in Lebanon.

"It is vital that children and their families get access to the services they urgently need, including medical care and physical and emotional protection," Sakr added.

The organization also reported that hospitals are "completely overwhelmed" and "unable to treat further casualties as hundreds of beds immediately filled up following the blast." The agency described the explosion "as the biggest explosion in Lebanon's recent history."

"The incident could not have occurred at a worse time and has hit communities who were already suffering from the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and the economic deterioration. Beirut’s main port, now completely damaged, is vital for much of the food, grains, and fuel that Lebanon imports, and families will immediately feel the shortage in basic needs as a result of this tragedy," Sakr said.

Save the Children's offices in Beirut were also badly damaged by the explosion.

4:17 p.m. ET, August 4, 2020

Here's what the damage looks like inside Lebanese prime minister's headquarters 

From CNN's Samantha Beech

Nina dos Santos
Nina dos Santos

Photos taken from inside the Grand Serail, the government palace and the headquarters of Lebanon’s prime minister, showed some damage inside the building.

The building is about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) from the site of the explosion.

The blast also dealt considerable damage to the Baabda Palace, the official residence of the Lebanese president, according to Lebanese state media.

4:09 p.m. ET, August 4, 2020

UN peacekeepers injured in blast

From CNN’s Nada AlTaher in Abu Dhabi

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) says some of its naval peacekeepers were injured — some seriously — by the explosion that rocked Beirut on Tuesday. 

“UNIFIL is transporting the injured peacekeepers to the nearest hospitals for medical treatment,” UNIFIL said in a statement. “UNIFIL is currently assessing the situation, including the scale of the impact on UNIFIL personnel.” 

A maritime task force ship was also damaged by the explosion. 

“We are with the people and the Government of Lebanon during this difficult time and stand ready to help and provide any assistance and support," the UNIFIL head of Mission and Force Commander Major General Stefano Del Col said.


3:54 p.m. ET, August 4, 2020

Those responsible for Beirut blast "will pay for what happened," Lebanese prime minister says 

From Tamara Qiblawi

Tele Liban/AFP
Tele Liban/AFP

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that Tuesday’s explosion in the Lebanese capital “will not pass without accountability” and “those responsible will pay for what happened.”

He said that an investigation into the explosion will include “revelations that will be announced about this dangerous warehouse which has been present since 2014,” without providing any additional details.

Describing the explosion as a “catastrophe,” he said in a televised statement that the priority now was to recover the dead and treat the injured. 

He concluded by making “an emergency call to all those countries who love this country to stand by us and to help us heal our deep wounds.”

3:48 p.m. ET, August 4, 2020

Eyewitness footage shows Beirut blast from nearby boat

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

Hani Abughazaleh and friends had been fishing off the coast of Beirut, Lebanon.  

"We heard a couple of small explosions and saw white smoke rising above," he told CNN.  

CNN's producer in Beirut Ghazi Balkiz said the initial explosion happened at 6:07 p.m. local time.

Abughazaleh began taking a video at 6:08 p.m. local time and seven seconds later, the massive red explosion cloud appears. The sudden and intense explosion is so powerful a massive, visible shockwave forms in the sky.

Watch the moment:

He said when the shockwave hit the group, it almost knocked them off the boat.

"We saw a red plume rising and people panicked wondering if it's some sort of lethal gas," he said.

"Oh my God," someone in the video exclaims.

Two more videos taken by Abughazaleh shows the red cloud billowing above Beirut.  

As the boat began to make its way back to the shore along the coast, the red cloud appears to have dispersed and a red haze appears in the air.

"I drove home to asses the damage in my house and saw hundreds of injured people," he said.

5:43 a.m. ET, August 5, 2020

At least 50 killed in Beirut blast, health minister says

From Charbel Mallo

The death toll in the Beirut blast has doubled to at least 50 killed, with many more feared dead, Health Minister Hamad Hassan told reporters outside a hospital Tuesday.

At least 2,750 people were injured in the massive explosion that shook the capital, Hassan said.