Over 78 killed in Beirut blasts
Lebanese President Michel Aoun called for an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday and said a two-week state of emergency should be declared following a massive explosion in Beirut that killed at least 78 people and injured 4,000 others, reports Al Jazeera.
The explosion on Tuesday sent shockwaves across the city, causing widespread damage even on the outskirts of the capital.
Officials said they expected the death toll to rise further as emergency workers dug through rubble to rescue people and remove the dead.
The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear.
Officials linked the explosion to some 2,700 tonnes of confiscated ammonium nitrate that were being stored in a warehouse at the port for six years.
Aoun assembled the country's High Defence Council following the explosion.
Lebanese Customs blames Beirut port chief for storage of explosive ammonium nitrate
Badri Daher, the director of Lebanon's customs office, said his agency was not responsible for the storage of ammonium nitrate that triggered a massive explosion that left dozens dead.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Bader pointed the finger instead at the head of the Port, Hassan Koraytem.
"They are responsible, and I can tell you that this material shouldn't have stayed there - it shouldn't have been there in the first place."
Koraytem could not be reached for comment. The Port Directorate is under the authority of the Public Works and Transport Ministry.
Beirut explosion triggers 3.5 earthquake
The massive explosion in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, has triggered a 3.5 magnitude earthquake, according to Germany’s geosciences center GFZ.
The explosion, that killed at least 78 people and injured about 4,000 others was heard and felt as far away as Cyprus more than 200 kilometers (180 miles) across the Mediterranean.
Lebanon's interior ministry said it appeared that a large cache of ammonium nitrate, estimated at 2,700 tonnes, stored at the city's port set off the blast.
Lebanon defence council recommends army oversee Beirut's security
Lebanon's Supreme Defence Council recommended declaring Beirut a disaster-stricken city following a massive explosion, declaring a two-week state of emergency in the capital and handing over security responsibility to military authorities.
A council statement, read live on television, said President Michel Aoun has decided to release 100 billion Lebanese pounds ($66m) in emergency allocations from the 2020 budget.
An Israeli government official said Israel "had nothing to do" with the blast. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the news media. Israeli officials usually do not comment on “foreign reports." The Israeli government offered emergency assistance through international intermediaries.
President Donald Trump said the U.S. “stands ready to assist Lebanon," and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo extended his "deepest condolences."
"Our team in Beirut has reported to me the extensive damage to a city and a people that I hold dear, an additional challenge in a time of already deep crisis," Pompeo said in a written statement.
The blast was stunning even for a city that has seen a 15-year civil war, suicide bombings, bombardment by Israel and political assassinations.
"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 meters (yards) from the port and was knocked off his feet by the force of the explosion.