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Ammonium Nitrate Blamed for Devastating Beirut Blast

At least 70 dead, 4K injured
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 4, 2020 8:17 PM CDT

(Newser) – The death toll from the massive explosion that shook Lebanon's capital Tuesday now stands at more than 70—and with scenes of utter devastation for blocks surrounding the Beirut port area, the toll appears certain to rise. The country's health minister says the blast, which caused a mushroom cloud and was heard as far away as Cyprus, 150 miles across the Mediterranean, injured at least 4,000 people, the BBC reports. Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi told reporters that the blast was apparently caused by the detonation of more than 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored in a port warehouse since 2014, when it was seized from a cargo ship, reports the AP.

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Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab vowed that those responsible for the catastrophe will "pay the price." Other countries in the region—even longtime adversary Israel—have offered humanitarian aid, with Qatar promising to send field hospitals, the Guardian reports. It's not clear what caused the detonation, but witnesses said a fire in a nearby building spread to the warehouse just before the huge explosion. Germany’s geosciences center says the blast, which damaged buildings across the city, hit with the force of a 3.5-magnitude earthquake. President Trump offered his condolences, for what he described as an "attack," CBS reports. He said he had spoken to "some of our great generals," who told him they thought it was "a bomb of some kind." (Read more Beirut stories.)

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