Powerful Explosion in Beirut Kills at Least 78, Injures Thousands

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Lebanon’s health ministry said that at least 78 people had died and 4,000 suffered injuries in the explosions and fire that shook Beirut on Tuesday.

The numbers climbed steadily through the day, and with the wounded still streaming into hospitals and the search for missing people underway, they were likely to go higher still.

The secretary-general of the Kataeb political party, Nizar Najarian, was killed in the blast, and among those injured was Kamal Hayek, the chairman of the state-owned electricity company, who was in critical condition.

Videos of the aftermath posted online showed wounded people bleeding amid the dust and rubble, and damage where flying debris had punched holes in walls and furniture. On social media, people reported damage to homes and cars far from the port.

The Lebanese Red Cross said that every available ambulance from North Lebanon, Bekaa and South Lebanon was being dispatched to Beirut to help patients.

Hospitals were so overwhelmed that they were turning wounded people away, including the American University Hospital. Patients were transported to hospitals outside Beirut because those in the city were at capacity.

Public Health Minister Hamad Hassan announced that his ministry would cover the costs of treating the wounded at hospitals, the National News Agency reported. It said the decision covered both hospitals that have contracts with the ministry as well as those that don’t.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced that Wednesday would be a national day of mourning, the National News Agency reported. The Lebanese presidency said on Twitter that President Michel Aoun had instructed the military to aid in the response, and called an emergency meeting of the Supreme Defense Council, which declared Beirut a disaster area.

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