UPDATE at 9:00am Wednesday local time: As the sun rises over the devastated city of Beirut, the Red Cross is reporting that at least 100 people were killed and more than 4,000 were wounded in yesterday’s dual explosions, reports The Daily Star of Lebanon.
The Beirut Port is gone — completely destroyed by the blasts — including grain silos critical for the nation’s food production.
“The silos…contain essential grain reserves including wheat, corn, and barley,” reports Al-Arabiya. “Lebanon, which imports up to 80 percent of its food needs, is particularly reliant on imported soft wheat to make Arabic flatbread, a national staple.”
“What happened is like the Hiroshima and Nagasaki explosions. Nothing remains,” Beirut governor Marwan Abboud told Arab News after inspecting the scene of the explosion.
Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab addressed his nation Tuesday night during a news conference, vowing a full investigation and accountability for any people who were responsible. Here are excerpts from his remarks:
“Ammonium nitrate, which Lebanese authorities have said was the cause of the Beirut blast, is an odorless crystalline substance commonly used as a fertilizer that has been the cause of numerous industrial explosions over the decades,” reported Gulf News.
“These include notably at a Texas fertilizer plant in 2013 that killed 15 and was ruled deliberate, and another at a chemical plant in Toulouse, France in 2001 that killed 31 people but was accidental,” Gulf News added. “When combined with fuel oils, ammonium nitrate creates a potent explosive widely used by the construction industry, but also by insurgent groups like the Taliban for improvised explosives. It was also a component in the bomb behind the 1995 Oklahoma City attack.”
Sympathy and support is pouring in from around the world.
The Israeli government has denied any connection to the blast, and is offering assistance to the people and government of Lebanon.
- “Israel approached Lebanon through international defense and diplomatic channels to offer the Lebanese government medical humanitarian aid,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said in a joint statement.
- “President Reuven Rivlin, in tweets in English, Arabic and Hebrew, added: ‘We share the pain of the Lebanese people and sincerely reach out to offer our aid at this difficult time,'” reported the Times of Israel.
Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.