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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3:21 p.m. ET, August 5, 2020

The Beirut explosion created a 405-foot-wide crater

From CNN's Daniel Wolfe

This satellite image, obtained by CNN from Planet Labs Inc., shows a massive crater at the site of Tuesday's explosion in Beirut's port.
This satellite image, obtained by CNN from Planet Labs Inc., shows a massive crater at the site of Tuesday's explosion in Beirut's port. Planet Labs, Inc.

The diameter of the Beirut crater created by Tuesday's explosion appears to be roughly 124 meters — or about 405 feet, according to a CNN analysis of a Planet Labs, Inc. satellite image.

That distance means the crater is well over a football field in length.

CNN utilized geospatial software to measure the satellite imagery of the explosion site. The assessment is accurate within 10 meters.

2:50 p.m. ET, August 5, 2020

US defense secretary on Beirut: "Most believe that it was an accident"

From CNN's Michael Conte

Defense Secretary Mark Esper arrives for a House Armed Services Committee hearing on July 9.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper arrives for a House Armed Services Committee hearing on July 9. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the US is “still getting information on what happened” in regard to the explosion in Beirut, and that “most believe that it was an accident, as reported.”

US defense officials have told CNN there is no indication at the moment that the blast was an attack, despite President Trump calling it as such yesterday.

Esper’s remarks came as part of a discussion with the annual Aspen Security Forum, where he said he spoke about the blast with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this morning.

“We’re reaching out to the Lebanese government, have reached out. We’re positioning ourselves to provide them whatever assistance we can, humanitarian aid, medical supplies, you name it, to assist the people of Lebanon,” he said.

2:42 p.m. ET, August 5, 2020

At least 1 American killed and several injured in blast

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

The site of the explosion is seen from a damaged apartment building in Beirut on August 5.
The site of the explosion is seen from a damaged apartment building in Beirut on August 5. Hussein Malla/AP

The US State Department is “aware of at least one US citizen killed, and several more injured, by the explosion” in Beirut, a spokesperson said Wednesday.

“All US Chief of Mission personnel in Beirut are safe and accounted for and US Embassy Beirut is open,” the spokesperson said.

“We offer our sincerest condolences to their loved ones and are working to provide the affected US citizens and their families all possible consular assistance,” the spokesperson said. “We are working closely with local authorities to determine if any additional US citizens were affected. Out of respect for the families at this difficult time, we have no further comment.”

The spokesperson said they are urging “US citizens in the affected areas who are safe to contact their loved ones directly and/or update their status on social media.”

“If you are in the affected area and need immediate emergency services, please contact local authorities. We urge US citizens to avoid the affected areas / shelter in place and follow the directions of local authorities,” they said.

2:14 p.m. ET, August 5, 2020

This Beirut hospital may run out of medical supplies soon

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Hospitals in Beirut are overwhelmed with casualties, with four of its hospitals out of service due to damage by the explosion. Even under this already high level of strain, Firass Abiad, CEO of Rafik Hariri University Hospital, says the situation will escalate and the death toll will climb further.

“I think that it's very likely that those numbers will increase. What we are hearing today from some of the EMS services that are sweeping buildings, that are in the vicinity of the blasts, is that they are finding bodies,” he said.

“I’m not sure we will see more survivors, but I think we'll definitely see more bodies coming in.”

The crisis comes to the city and its hospitals amid already existing challenges.

Rafik Hariri University Hospital was already running low on its medical supplies due to the financial crisis in Lebanon when Covid-19 hit, Abiad said. And in this backdrop of a surge in cases during a second wave, came the casualties from Tuesday’s explosion, completely overwhelming the hospital. Now, it’s about to run out of supplies.

“We are very close. I think, you know, when this happened yesterday, we threw everything that we had in our emergency room. We were trying to treat as much as we can. But with all honesty, if help does not arrive soon, we will be empty-handed very shortly,” he said.

The financial crisis, the coronavirus pandemic and the explosion has put his team “in the middle of a perfect storm,” he added.

“I'm a surgeon who worked through the civil war and we've seen financial hardships before. We've seen blast injuries before. We haven't seen corona before but I think that all of these together… we do not seem to see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

The way the staff at the hospital has reacted to the crisis has been “silver lining,” Abiad said.

“When this happened, part of my staff were finishing their shift and going home. And they just came back,” he said. “They were filled with empathy toward the patients and kindness. And I think the only hope I see with all of this is the ability of the human spirit to endure these hardships.”

Watch more:

12:59 p.m. ET, August 5, 2020

UK to send aid, search and rescue experts to Lebanon, foreign secretary says

From CNN's Milena Veselinovic

UK will send 5 million GBP (approximately $6.6 million) in aid to Lebanon and will also provide medical and search and rescue experts to help in the aftermath of the Beirut blast, Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told reporters on Wednesday.

Raab said he had spoken to the Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab, and that a British Navy ship was "in the area" and ready to help. 

12:47 p.m. ET, August 5, 2020

How to help victims of the Beirut explosion

From CNN's Lauren Lee

Wounded people wait to receive help outside a hospital on August 4.
Wounded people wait to receive help outside a hospital on August 4. Ibrahim Amro/AFP/Getty Images

At least 100 people are dead and 4,000 wounded following an explosion in Lebanon's capital city of Beirut. While it is still unclear what caused the explosion, the city is decimated with thousands of residents left homeless, a medical system strained and up to $5 billion worth of damage.

You can help raise funds for supplies and assistance so desperately needed by clicking the button in this link.

Several charities are on the ground providing medical care, shelter, supplies and other desperately needed services to help the city recover and rebuild.

You can contribute by clicking here.

12:41 p.m. ET, August 5, 2020

A televised mass showed the moment part of the church's ceiling fell because of the blast

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

A Catholic church in Beirut was televising its Tuesday mass as part of its Covid-19 safety protocols, but it was interrupted when the massive explosion went off.

Video of the service shows parts of the ceiling falling as a priest ran for cover, getting injured in the process.

Pope Francis has called on people to pray for Lebanon in the aftermath of Tuesday’s deadly explosion.

Watch the moment here from Al Hurra TV:

12:35 p.m. ET, August 5, 2020

Death toll increases to 135, health minister says

From CNN’s Mohammed Tawfeeq and Mostafa Salem

The death toll for Tuesday’s blast increased to 135, Lebanon’s Health Minister Hamad Hassan told Al-Manar television.

Another 5,000 people are wounded and dozens more are still missing, he said. 

“Unfortunately the number of martyrs is increasing,” Hassan told a reporter on Al-Manar television. “The wounded have reached 5,000 and they are receiving care inside the capital and outside the capital." 

12:36 p.m. ET, August 5, 2020

21 French citizens injured in the Beirut blast, Paris prosecutor's office says

From CNN's Barbara Wojazer in Paris 

The office of the Paris prosecutor said in a statement on Wednesday that 21 French nationals were injured in the blast in Beirut.

This has prompted the Prosecutor's Office to open an "investigation for unintentional injury," the statement says, a standard procedure when French nationals are injured abroad, a source close to the investigation told CNN. 

French President Emmanuel Macron will visit Beirut on Thursday to show “solidarity” with the Lebanese people in the aftermath of Tuesday’s disastrous explosion, according to the Twitter account of the Lebanese presidency.