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'Deafening' Blast So Strong It Lifts the Highway in Beirut

The explosion was centered at the port in Lebanon's capital
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 4, 2020 11:46 AM CDT
Updated Aug 4, 2020 1:35 PM CDT

(Newser) – 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.

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