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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5:35 a.m. ET, August 5, 2020

Pope Francis prays for Lebanon in the aftermath of Tuesday's blast

From CNN's Valentina DiDonato

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

"Yesterday in Beirut, near the port, there were massive explosions causing dozens of deaths, wounding thousands and causing serious destruction," the Pope said in his weekly General Audience on Wednesday, from the library of the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City.

“Let us pray for the victims, for their families; and let us pray for Lebanon so that, through the dedication of all its social, political and religious elements, it might face this extremely tragic and painful moment and, with the help of the international community, overcome the grave crisis they are experiencing."

5:26 a.m. ET, August 5, 2020

The Lebanese Red Cross set up temporary shelters in Beirut for 1,000 families, while a popular ride-sharing app is offering free trips to anyone willing to donate blood

From CNN’s Jomana Karadsheh in Istanbul and Nada AlTaher in Abu Dhabi

Rescue workers and security officers work at the scene of an explosion causing damage to the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, on Wednesday, August 5.
Rescue workers and security officers work at the scene of an explosion causing damage to the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, on Wednesday, August 5. Hussein Malla/AP

The Lebanese Red Cross said in a tweet on Wednesday that it is setting up enough temporary shelters with food, hygiene kits and basic needs to house up to 1,000 families for 72 hours.

Countless homes were destroyed after a blast tore through Beirut Tuesday evening.

At least one hundred people have died and more than 4,000 were wounded in Tuesday’s devastating explosion in the port of Beirut, state-run media reported citing the Red Cross.

Blood is in high demand, so ride-sharing app Careem is offering free rides for people traveling to and from donation centers and hospitals to donate blood. Careem is a subsidiary of Uber.

5:42 a.m. ET, August 5, 2020

Tuesday's blast caused billions of dollars worth of damage, governor says

From CNN's Charbel Mallo in Abu Dhabi

Lebanese soldiers search for survivors after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on Wednesday, August 5.
Lebanese soldiers search for survivors after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on Wednesday, August 5. Hassan Ammar/AP

Tuesday’s explosion in the Lebanese capital has resulted in an estimated $3 billion to $5 billion worth of damage, Beirut governor Marwan Abboud told reporters Wednesday.

 

4:35 a.m. ET, August 5, 2020

Lebanon is allocating 100 billion Lebanese pounds to deal with the blast's aftermath

From Ghazi Balkiz in Beirut and Nada Althaher in Abu Dhabi

Lebanon has allocated 100 billion Lebanese pounds – which according to the government rate is $66,335,000 -- to deal with the effects of the Beirut blast, the Lebanese Presidency Twitter account said Wednesday.

While the official rate stands at $1 to 1,500 Lebanese pounds, the rate available to average citizens is much higher due to inflation and the months-long economic depression.

According to Beirut residents and a widely used app that tracks the black market exchange rate, $1 would buy about 8,200 Lebanese pounds for average citizens at the time of the announcement.

4:14 a.m. ET, August 5, 2020

The death toll from the Beirut blast is now 100, according to the Red Cross

From CNN's Ghazi Balkiz in Beirut, Lebanon

At least 100 people have died and more than 4,000 were wounded in Tuesday’s explosion in the port of Beirut, state-run media reported, citing the Red Cross.

Georges Kettaneh, the secretary-general of the Lebanese Red Cross, told Lebanon’s National News Agency Wednesday that the disaster is "unprecedented and very large."

4:08 a.m. ET, August 5, 2020

Lebanese economist: Beirut is "completely destroyed"

Destruction is seen after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on Wednesday, August 5.
Destruction is seen after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on Wednesday, August 5. Hassan Ammar/AP

Jad Chaaban, an associate professor of economics at the American University of Beirut, said the situation on the ground in the Lebanese capital after the explosion is so dire that it is "beyond a national disaster,"

"Beirut city is completely destroyed and shattered," he said.

Chaaban said storing ammonium nitrate in a warehouse for years near a populated area amounted to "criminal" behavior.

Lebanon's Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, said that 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive material used in fertilizers and bombs, had been stored for six years at a port warehouse without safety measures, "endangering the safety of citizens," according to a statement.

The Prime Minister has launched an investigation into the explosion, saying he "will not rest until we find those responsible for what happened, hold them accountable, and impose maximum punishment."

More unrest coming: Chaaban told CNN he believes this incident could precipitate more protests in Lebanon.

"We are very, very angry at this political class, and they all should leave," Chaaban said.

Lebanon has been dealing with sporadic anti-government protests since late last year, when a popular uprising gripped the country. Many were angry with the country's ruling political class, endemic corruption and its dire economic outlook -- which has only gotten worse since Covid-19 hit. Prices for many goods have risen rapidly in recent weeks, some quadrupling, according to Chaaban.

"There is exasperation on the streets and there is a lot of anger," he said.

4:02 a.m. ET, August 5, 2020

Russia is sending medical supplies and doctors to Lebanon

From CNN’s Mary Ilyushina in Moscow

Lebanese soldiers search for survivors after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on Wednesday, August 5.
Lebanese soldiers search for survivors after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on Wednesday, August 5. Hassan Ammar/AP

The Russian government is sending five planes of medical equipment and a team of doctors to set up a field hospital in Beirut to help the city in the aftermath of yesterday's explosion, the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations said Wednesday, according to Russia's TASS news agency.

The ministry will also send a team trained for search and rescue operations and a mobile laboratory to identify cases of Covid-19.

Lebanon has recorded more than 5,000 cases of the virus, including 65 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

3:35 a.m. ET, August 5, 2020

2 Philippine citizens are among the dead

From CNN's Isaac Yee in Hong Kong

Two Philippine nationals were killed in Tuesday's explosion in Beirut, the Philippine Embassy in Beirut confirmed Wednesday.

Eight other Philippine citizens suffered injuries, the Embassy said in a statement. One is in critical but stable condition.

Two of the injured were part of a group of 13 Filipino seafarers whose ship was docked “some 400 meters away from blast zone," the embassy said. The other 11 from that group are missing.

The embassy said it is working with local authorities to locate and ensure the safety of those who have not been accounted for.

"The Philippines extends its deepest sympathies and condolences to the Lebanese Government and people, especially those who have been affected by this tragic event,” the Department of Foreign Affairs told CNN.
3:24 a.m. ET, August 5, 2020

What we know so far about yesterday's explosion

From CNN's Jessie Yeung

A massive explosion rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Tuesday evening, leaving dozens dead and thousands injured.

The blast has been linked to a large supply of confiscated and potentially unsecured explosive material, stored in a warehouse at the city's port, close to populated areas. As world leaders and international organizations step in to offer assistance, local officials are also launching an investigation into the blast.

As day breaks in Lebanon, authorities are scrambling to treat the wounded, search for survivors, and assess the full extent of the damage.

Here's what we know so far: