The official death toll in the massive explosion that rocked Beirut on Tuesday has risen to 135 as of the time of this article; however, Lebanese authorities warn that the final toll could be much higher as the search continues for hundreds who are still missing after the devastating blast.
The true extent of the devastation in the Lebanese capital is just beginning to come to light 24 hours after videos and pictures of the explosion rocked the world. Buildings have been damaged for miles around and a large, gaping crater at the explosion site can be seen on satellite footage.
Lebanon does not conduct a regular census of its cities’ populations, but most estimates place the number of people living in and around Beirut at between 1 million and 2 million people. The damage is so extensive that Beirut’s governor estimates that more than 300,000 people are currently homeless, and may remain so for several months as the city attempts to piece itself back together.
Destroyed rooftops and facades are visible from a high-rise building a day after a massive explosion occurred at the port on Aug. 5, 2020 in Beirut, Lebanon. (Photo by Marwah Tatah/Getty Images)
According to The Telegraph, the city’s hospitals are already overwhelmed with over 5,000 who were injured in the blast, even as workers continue to search through the rubble searching for more wounded survivors. Many hospitals were also damaged in the blast, forcing them to evacuate existing patients outside for care.
Additionally, Fox News reported that over 85% of Lebanon’s food storage is housed in Beirut, and that damage to some structures may lead to widespread famine in the country in the absence of foreign aid, which is already arriving.
Although the investigation into the cause of the explosion is ongoing, the government claims that the explosion was likely caused when a container that was storing 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate ignited on the dock at the port.
The chemical — which is used in fertilizer and was one of the primary components of the bomb constructed by Timothy McVeigh and his conspirators in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City — had been seized by Lebanese authorities in 2014 and apparently left on the dock to sit since then.
Buildings lie ruined near the city’s port, devastated by an explosion Tuesday in Beirut, Lebanon. (Photo by Marwan Tatah/Getty images)
By way of perspective, the total amount of all chemicals used by McVeigh in his bomb was less than four tons.
The Lebanese government has placed the port officials who were in charge of the dock where the explosion occurred under house arrest and promised a full and transparent investigation into the blast.