Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday expressed his shock over the massive explosions in Lebanon’s capital city Beirut that killed at least 73 people and injured thousands, and prayed for the bereaved families.
In a tweet, the Prime Minister’s Office said, “Shocked and saddened by the large explosion in Beirut city leading to loss of life and property. Our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families and the injured.”
Shocked and saddened by the large explosion in Beirut city leading to loss of life and property. Our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families and the injured: PM @narendramodi
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) August 5, 2020
Two enormous explosions devastated Beirut’s port on Tuesday, leaving at least 73 people dead and as many as 3,700 injured across wide parts of the country’s biggest city, shaking distant buildings and spreading panic and chaos across the Lebanese capital.
The second blast sent an enormous orange fireball into the sky, immediately followed by a tornado-like shockwave that flattened the port and swept the city, shattering windows kilometres (miles) away.
Lebanon Prime Minister Hassan Diab, meanwhile, informed that 2,750 tonnes of agricultural fertiliser ammonium nitrate that had been stored for years in a portside warehouse had blown up, sparking “a disaster in every sense of the word”.
Soon after the tragedy struck, bloodied and dazed wounded people were seen stumbling among the debris, glass shards and burning buildings in central Beirut.
The Prime Minister said that whatever happened “will not pass without accountability” and added that “those responsible for the catastrophe will pay the price”.
General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim said that the “highly explosive material” had been confiscated years earlier and stored in the warehouse, just minutes walk from Beirut’s shopping and nightlife districts.
The explosions come as the country’s hospitals are already struggling with the Coronavirus outbreak.
The blasts were so massive they shook the entire city and could be heard throughout the small country, and as far away as Nicosia on the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 240 kilometres (150 miles) away, an AFP report said.
AFP video footage showed areas of near-complete devastation, with cars flipped onto their roofs like children’s toys, warehouses flattened and survivors drenched from head to toe in their own blood.
As the national defence council declared Beirut a disaster zone, Diab appealed to Lebanon’s allies to “stand by” the country and “help us treat these deep wounds”.
— Zaiنab Hijazi (@zainabhijazi97) August 4, 2020
The explosions hit Lebanon as it suffers its worst economic crisis in decades which has left nearly half of the population in poverty.
The country’s economy has collapsed in recent months, with the local currency plummeting against the dollar, businesses closing en masse and poverty soaring at the same alarming rate as unemployment.
The country’s worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war has sparked months of street demonstrations against the government.
The explosions also come as Lebanon awaits a UN tribunal’s verdict Friday on the 2005 murder of former Lebanese premier Rafic Hariri, killed in a huge truck bomb attack.
Four alleged members of the Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah are on trial in absentia at a court in the Netherlands over the huge Beirut bombing that killed Sunni billionaire Hariri and 21 other people.
Meanwhile, United States President Donald Trump said his military generals told him they “seem to feel” that the massive explosion was in fact a bomb attack.
“I met with some of our great generals and they just seem to feel that it was [an attack],” Trump told reporters at the White House. “This was not a – some kind of a manufacturing explosion type of a event…they seem to think it was a attack. It was a bomb of some kind, yes.”
(With agency inputs)