Tuesday, 29 Sep 2020

Boris pledges to support Beirut 'in any way we can' following huge explosion

Boris Johnson has pledged to provide support to Beirut ‘in any way we can’ following a huge explosion which has left at least 25 people dead and 2,500 injured.

The gigantic blast went off in the city’s port this evening, where explosives were reportedly being stored in warehouses. Shocking footage from the Lebanese capital showed people soaked in blood, buildings left in ruins and debris scattered across roads.

It is not yet known what caused the explosion. Sources says overwhelmed hospitals are having to treat the wounded in car parks and are calling out for blood donations for victims.

Taking to Twitter this evening, Johnson described the destruction left in Beirut as ‘shocking’. He went on: ‘All of my thoughts and prayers are with those caught up in this terrible incident. The UK is ready to provide support in any way we can, including to those British nationals affected.’

His words were echoed by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who also tweeted that the UK ‘stands in solidarity with the people of Lebanon’. He stated that his thoughts and prayers were with everyone affected by the blast.

French President Emmanuel Macron also wrote on social media that aid and resources are already being delivered to Beirut from France, while Canadian PM Justin Trudeau said he also stood ‘ready to assist’ where possible.

Israel also offered humanitarian assistance, with Defence Minister Benny Gantz stating that the nation had approached the Lebanese government through ‘international security and diplomatic channels’.

Earlier this evening Israeli officials denied involvement in the explosion amid ongoing tensions caused by a cross-border confrontation between the country and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

The death toll from the explosion is expected to rise this evening, with Lebanese Red Cross official Georges Kettaneh stating that there were ‘hundreds of casualties’ in the city.

Arriving in the area this evening, Beirut’s governor Marwan Abboud broke down in tears as he talked about helping to search for fire fighters who had ‘vanished’ while putting out the blaze. A team are searching through the rubble for those missing.

He continued: ‘This reminds me of what happened in Japan, to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I’ve never seen damage of this size and width, and so catastrophic. This is a national catastrophe. This is a problem for Lebanon, and we don’t know how we’re going to get out of it. This is a lot. It’s a lot all at once for people.’

One witness told Reuters: ‘I saw a fireball and smoke billowing over Beirut. People were screaming and running, bleeding. Balconies were blown off buildings. Glass in high-rise buildings shattered and fell to the street.’

Another person described seeing heavy grey smoke near the port area, before hearing the explosion and seeing flames of fire and black smoke. They went on: ‘All the downtown area windows are smashed and there are wounded people walking around. It is total chaos.’

The explosion was also felt by residents in Cyprus, more than 145 miles away from Beirut, with witnesses feeling their windows rattle and describing it as similar to thunder.

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