Lebanese President Michel Aoun has called for a two-week state of emergency to be declared in the capital, Beirut, following twin explosions at the Port of Beirut on Tuesday, August 4. The city has been declared a disaster zone, with the decision to declare a state of emergency expected to be taken at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, August 5. A total lockdown in Lebanon, which was expected to run from Thursday, August 6, until Tuesday, August 11, to limit the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has been canceled. A period of mourning of three days will be observed from Wednesday. The blasts were reportedly caused by a fire in a warehouse storing ammonium nitrate. The results of an investigation into the cause of the explosions are expected in the coming days.
As of 07:00 (local time), 78 people have been confirmed killed, with at least 4000 injured. The casualty figure is expected to rise as emergency services clear the area. The eastern section of the Port of Beirut is reportedly destroyed, with severe damage to buildings within a 1.5 km (one mile) radius of the explosions, and damage reported as far as 15 km (nine miles) away. Authorities have warned people to avoid inhaling the smoke that has since enveloped the city, citing a risk of exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals. The smoke is expected to linger throughout Wednesday.
Hospitals in Beirut have suffered damage, particularly in the eastern neighborhood of Achrafieh, and have been overwhelmed by the number of casualties. Patients have had to be treated in the streets, with serious cases evacuated outside of Beirut.
Significant disruption to transportation, business, and utilities is to be expected in Beirut, and to a lesser extent throughout Lebanon, in the near term.
Those in Beirut are advised to remain indoors, close doors and windows, and monitor local media sources for further updates on the incident.
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