BEIRUT residents awoke to devastating scenes yesterday, a day after a massive explosion shook Lebanon’s capital city.

Authorities said at least 100 people were killed and 4000 wounded, with the toll likely to rise as more bodies are found in the rubble.

At hospitals across the city people had waited all night for news of loved ones who had gone missing or were wounded. Others posted requests for help online.

Smoke was still rising from the port where the explosion occurred which killed dozens of people and wounded thousands. The blast appeared to have been triggered by a fire near a storage facility housing volatile chemicals. Streets were littered with debris and damaged vehicles, and building facades were blown out.

Lebanon’s prime minister Hassan Diab appealed to all countries and friends of Lebanon to extend help to the small nation in a televised speech, saying: “We are witnessing a real catastrophe.”

The European Union is activating its civil protection system to round up emergency workers and equipment from across the 27-nation bloc to help Beirut. Firefighters, sniffer dogs and equipment designed to find people who are trapped will be dispatched urgently said the EU commission. Australia has donated $2 million (around £1.1m) to Lebanon. French president Emmanuel Macron will visit Lebanese officials today. France has pledged to send aid and emergency workers to Lebanon.

Diab reiterated his pledge that those responsible for the massive explosion at Beirut’s port will pay the price, without commenting on the cause.

It was the most powerful explosion ever seen in the city, which was on the front lines of the 1975-1990 civil war and has endured conflicts with neighbouring Israel, periodic bombings and terror attacks.

The governor of Beirut, Marwan Abboud, said the blast had damaged half of the city. Estimating the cost of damage at $3 billion.

It struck with the force of a 3.5 magnitude earthquake, according to Germany’s geosciences centre GFZ, and was heard and felt as far away as Cyprus more than 180 miles across the Mediterranean.

“L’Apocalypse,” read the front page of Lebanon’s French L’Orient Le Jour newspaper. Another paper, al-Akhbar, had a photo of a destroyed port with the words: “The Great


Lebanon was already on the brink of collapse amid a severe economic crisis that has ignited mass protests in recent months.

Its hospitals are confronting a surge in coronavirus cases and there were concerns the virus could spread further as people flooded into hospitals.

Interior minister Mohammed Fahmi said it appeared the blast was caused by the detonation of more than 2700 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored in a warehouse at the dock since being confiscated from a cargo ship in 2014.

Witnesses reported seeing an orange cloud like that which appears when toxic nitrogen dioxide gas is released after an explosion involving nitrates.

Videos showed what looked like a fire erupting nearby moments earlier and local TV stations reported a fireworks warehouse was involved. The fire appeared to spread to a nearby building, triggering the explosion, sending up a mushroom cloud and generating a shock wave.

“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 metres from the port and was knocked off his feet by the force of the explosion.

The blast destroyed numerous apartment buildings, potentially leaving large numbers of people homeless at a time when many Lebanese have lost their jobs and seen their savings evaporate because of a currency crisis.

The explosion also raises concerns about how Lebanon will continue to import nearly all of its vital goods with its main port devastated.

There is also the issue of food security in Lebanon, a tiny country already hosting more than a million Syrian refugees.