- Lebanon’s prime minister, Hassan Diab, blamed the disaster on the explosion of 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate
- The ammonium nitrate could be used to make fertilisers and explosives
- Major General Abbas Ibrahim, of Lebanon's General Security Directorate, said high explosive materials had been confiscated
- The death toll rose overnight to at least 100 and that more than 4,000 people were wounded
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Rescue workers are still digging through rubble searching for survivors as fires continued to burn in the Lebanese capital, where an explosion killed more than 100 and injured thousands.
While the cause of the explosion was not immediately clear, Lebanon's Internal Security Chief Abbas Ibrahim said the site of the blast was housing highly explosive materials.
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Lebanon’s prime minister, Hassan Diab, blamed the catastrophe on the explosion of 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, which could be used to make fertilisers and explosives.
Major General Abbas Ibrahim, of Lebanon's General Security Directorate, also said the massive blast that shook Beirut's port was caused by confiscated high explosive materials.
"It would be naive to describe such an explosion as due to fireworks," Ibrahim told Lebanese TV.
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A Red Cross official was quoted by the country's Daily Star stating that the death toll rose overnight to at least 100 and that more than 4,000 people were wounded.
Beirut governor Marwan Abboud later told a local radio station that more than 100 people remain missing, including several firefighters
“Beirut has never gone through what it went through on Tuesday, August 4,” Abboud said.
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As is common after major disasters, there has been some confusion over the death toll.
A named Red Cross official was earlier quoted by local broadcasters saying that the number of fatalities was expected to reach 100.
However, it now appears that the number of deaths has passed this grim milestone.
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The blast, so powerful it could be felt more than 150 miles away in Cyprus, levelled whole sections of the city leaving nothing but twisted metal and debris in Beirut’s downtown business district.
The waterfront neighbourhood normally full of restaurants and nightclubs was essentially flattened as reported by The Guardian.
A number of crowded residential neighbourhoods in the city’s eastern and predominantly Christian half were also ravaged.
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Nearly all the windows along one popular commercial strip had been blown out and the street was littered with glass, rubble and cars that had slammed into each other after the blast.
The buildings that remained standing in the blast area looked as though they had been skinned, leaving only hulking skeletons.
The same highly explosive compound is reported to have also been involved in Tianjin, a major port city 70 miles south-east of the capital, Beijing on the night of August 12, 2015.
A series of cataclysmic detonations rocked an area of warehouses where large quantities of hazardous chemicals, also including sodium cyanide and potassium nitrate, were being stored, in some cases illegally.
Chinese authorities later claimed the first explosion had been triggered after the heat of summer caused a highly flammable compound called nitrocellulose to spontaneously ignite.
Nearby stores of ammonium nitrate then caught fire and exploded.
Firefighters who rushed to the scene reportedly attempted to extinguish the initial blaze with water.
That only inadvertently exacerbate the situation because of the presence of hazardous flammable chemicals. ,
The majority of the 173 people who were killed were firefighters including at least one teenager.
Such was the force of the Tianjin explosions that they registered as small earthquakes.
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