A massive explosion rocked downtown Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings, and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital, per the AP. The health ministry says the preliminary toll is 50 dead and 2,750 wounded. The sudden devastation overwhelmed a country already struggling with both the coronavirus pandemic and an economic crisis: Beirut hospitals quickly filled beyond capacity, pleading for blood supplies and generators to keep their lights on.
- As for the cause, the head of Lebanese General Security said highly explosive material that was confiscated from a ship some time ago and stored at the port may have triggered the blast. Local television channel LBC said the material was sodium nitrate. The AP notes witnesses reported seeing a strange orange-colored cloud over the site after the explosion. Orange clouds of toxic nitrogen dioxide gas often accompany an explosion involving nitrates.