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At least 135 killed and 5,000 hurt in Beirut blast as officials put under house arrest

The number of dead in Beirut’s huge explosion has risen to at least 135, with around 5,000 injured and tens of people still missing.

The rise was announced by health minister Hamad Hassan as rescuers continued a desperate search for survivors.

Up to 300,000 people have been left homeless and families are still counting the casualties and searching for the dead.

A two-week state of emergency in Beirut was also announced by Lebanon’s cabinet, handing control of security in the capital to the military, as the disaster is investigated.

The cabinet has ordered port officials involved in storing or guarding ammonium nitrate since 2014 to be put under house arrest.

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Aerial views of Beirut after explosion

President Michel Aoun said the blast was caused by 2,750 tonnes of the chemical – used in fertilisers and as an explosive – which was left in a warehouse for six years.

The head of Beirut’s port, Hassan Koraytem, said the highly-explosive material came to be stored there six years ago because of a court order, local broadcaster OTV reported.

More from Beirut Explosion

The general manager reportedly said that the customs department and state security had asked authorities for the material to be exported or removed, but “nothing happened”. It was unclear to whom the requests were made.

The UK is planning to send a small advance party of military personnel to Beirut within the next 24 hours to liaise with the Lebanese authorities dealing with the emergency response to the explosions, Sky News understands.

This initial deployment will help to work out where UK support can best be directed.

Teams of search and rescue experts, rescue dogs and medics are on standby to deploy if required.

Britain has also pledged an immediate aid package for Lebanon up to £5m.

TOPSHOT - An aerial view shows the massive damage at Beirut port's grain silos and the area around it on August 5, 2020, one day after a massive explosion hit the heart of the Lebanese capital. - Rescuers searched for survivors in Beirut in the morning after a cataclysmic explosion at the port sowed devastation across entire neighbourhoods, killing more than 100 people, wounding thousands and plunging Lebanon deeper into crisis. (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)
Image: An aerial view shows the massive damage at Beirut port’s grain silos and the area around it

Man rescued from rubble in Beirut
Man rescued from explosion rubble

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “We are ready and now poised to deliver medical experts, humanitarian aid of £5m, search and rescue experts.

“We have also got a Royal Navy survey ship in the area which can be deployed to help assess the damage to the port.”

HMS Enterprise is being deployed and will help to map the seabed to work out the damage caused by the blast, and also identify safe routes in and out of the port to assist with reconstruction, a defence source told Sky News.

Beirut is reeling from a massive blast which has killed many and injured many more
‘Apocalyptic’ situation after deadly blast

 SENSITIVE MATERIAL. THIS IMAGE MAY OFFEND OR DISTURB    Members of Turkey's Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) help local medics to carry a casualty at the site of Tuesday's blast in Beirut's port area, Lebanon August 5, 2020. Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH)/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE.
Image: Rescue teams search through rubble near the site of the blast

Residents woke on Wednesday to a scene of devastation, shocked by the magnitude of the destruction.

Pictures showed cars upturned and streets covered in shattered glass and twisted metal, with buildings reduced to rubble.

Many people spent the night going from one hospital to another, desperate for any news about missing loved ones.

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The blast struck with the force of a 3.5 magnitude earthquake, according to Germany’s geosciences centre GFZ, and was heard and felt as far away as Cyprus – more than 125 miles (200km) across the Mediterranean.

A mushroom cloud could be seen spreading over the city.

“L’Apocalypse,” read the front page of Lebanon’s French L’Orient-Le Jour newspaper. Another paper, al-Akhbar, had a photo of the destroyed port with the words: “The Great Collapse.”

A general view shows the damage at the site of Tuesday's blast in Beirut's port area, Lebanon August 5, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
Image: The aftermath gives an idea of the power of the explosion

Those who felt the blast said they had never experienced anything like it.

“It was a real horror show. I haven’t seen anything like that since the days of the [civil] war,” said Marwan Ramadan, who was about 500 metres from the port and was knocked off his feet by the force of the explosion.

Alex Crawford in Beirut following the explosion
This is what Beirut is waking up to

The intensity of the blast threw victims into the sea and rescue teams are still trying to recover bodies.

Lebanon was already on the brink of collapse after the coronavirus outbreak and an unprecedented economic crisis that had triggered mass protests in recent months.

A picture shows the scene of an explosion in Beirut on August 4, 2020. - A large explosion rocked the Lebanese capital Beirut on August 4, an AFP correspondent said. The blast, which rattled entire buildings and broke glass, was felt in several parts of the city. (Photo by Anwar AMRO / AFP) (Photo by ANWAR AMRO/AFP via Getty Images)
Blast hits city – sending smoke into sky

Its hospitals, already buckling under a surge in COVID-19 infections, are now overflowing and struggling to cope with the influx of those injured in the blast.

Doctors and nurses have been forced to treat some of those hurt on the streets outside, while at the same time trying to keep coronavirus patients separate from the constant new arrivals.

Map of Beirut showing approximate location of the blast, and a 2km radius - as the effects of the explosion were felt across the city
Image: The explosion caused windows to shatter as far as 2km away

Beirut explosion hits church during mass
Priest flees as explosion hits during mass

“It’s like a war zone. I’m speechless,” said Beirut’s mayor Jamal Itani, while inspecting damage he estimated ran into billions of dollars.

“This is a catastrophe for Beirut and Lebanon.”

Lebanon’s main grain silo was also destroyed in the blast, leaving the country with less than a month’s reserves but still enough to avoid a crisis, economy minister Raoul Nehme said.

Aftermath of massive blast in Beirut. Pic: Wael Hamzeh/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Image: Aftermath of massive blast in Beirut. Pic: Wael Hamzeh/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Other offers of assistance have been pouring in from across the world, with France, Germany, Canada, Bangladesh, Israel, Russia, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait and Iran among the many countries pledging support.

This includes planeloads of humanitarian aid, rescue teams, medical staff and supplies, as well as field hospitals.

Losses from the blast are estimated to be between £7.62bn ($ 10bn) and £11.44bn ($ 15bn), the city’s governor said.

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