A large blast rocked the Lebanese capital, Beirut, on Tuesday 4 August 2020. Two explosions left the port area of the city in devastation, with footage shared on social media showing a large mushroom cloud.
Videos have circulated online showing a huge fire and bellowing smoke in the city’s east side port area. The blast, which rattled entire buildings and broke glass, was felt in several parts of the city.
AFP correspondent at the scene, Hachem Osseiran and Layal Abou Rahal, said shops and businesses in the Hamra commercial district had sustained damage. Closer to the blast, entire shopfronts were destroyed, with shattered windows and wrecked cars in the street.
Watch: Beirut explosion
The first video below shows the devastating second explosion, while the video shared by SV News shows the aftermath.
In addition, a security source told local channel LBC that the cause of the explosion was a fire in a warehouse that contained fireworks. However, this could not be corroborated at the time of publishing. Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr reports live from the scene:
“The force of the blast was massive. I was walking on the street and I was thrown to the ground. There’s panic and chaos; glass everywhere.”
BBC reports that the explosions followed after increased political tension in Lebanon that included street demonstrations against the government’s handling the worst economic crisis since the 1975 to 1990 civil war.
Lebanon’s economy took a dive in recent months as well. Local currency, the Lebanese pound, plummeted against the dollar while businesses closed en masse. This, in turn, caused poverty and unemployment to increase at an alarming rate.
Watch: Beirut explosion
At the same time, Lebanon awaits the verdict on the 2005 murder of former Lebanese premier Rafic Hariri, who was killed in a huge truck bomb attack. The verdict was expected on Friday, 6 August 2020.
Four alleged members of the Shiite Muslim fundamentalist group Hezbollah are on trial in absentia at the court in the Netherlands over the huge Beirut suicide bombing that killed Sunni billionaire Hariri and 21 other people.
Washington correspondent Joyce Karam said the two explosions took place within 15 minutes, one at Port and one in Beirut. She adds that “it’s [reportedly] near Hariri’s residence in the city centre”.
A woman close to the scene told the AFP correspondent that it “felt like an earthquake”, and added that the two explosions today “felt bigger than the explosion in the assassination of Rafic Hariri in 2005”.