Hundreds dead and at least 5,000 injured in Beirut explosion, protests erupt amid allegations of government negligence

Felicity Salina, International Law Officer

The capital of Lebanon, Beirut, was shaken by a deadly explosion believed to have originated from a warehouse near the city’s waterfront. The explosion occurred at about 6 p.m. local time on Tuesday 4 August. As of Friday, the reported death toll stands at 154, with at least 5,000 wounded. Searches for survivors remain ongoing.

Authorities are still investigating the cause of the explosion. Latest findings show two concurrent explosions occurred at the Port of Beirut, near the central district. Shortly beforehand, a large fire could be seen on the northern part of the city’s Mediterranean coast. Seconds after the initial explosion, there was a large blast that sent a billowing mushroom cloud into the air. Images and footage from witnesses show the catastrophic damage in the area surrounding the ground zero and to buildings located kilometers away.

In the wake of the disaster, public speculations about government negligence have surfaced. Officials say that the explosions were caused by an ammonium nitrate stockpile, which has been stored unsafely since 2013. On Thursday, protesters began to take to the streets chanting “revolution”, a slogan which also represented last year’s demonstrations over rampant corruption and inequality.

The United Nations has vowed to donate $9m (£6.7m) pulled from its emergency fund to help hospitals and intensive care units. A number of European, Arab, and Asian countries are also contributing by sending medical professionals and supplies, and setting up hospitals.

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