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Death toll from massive explosion in Beirut rises to 63

Death toll from massive explosion in Beirut rises to 63
Fire at warehouse with explosives at Port of Beirut led to massive blast causing widespread damage, over 3,000 injuries

By Halime Afra Aksoy

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AA) - The death toll from a massive blast in the Lebanese capital Beirut has risen to 63, Health Minister Hamad Hasan said early Wednesday.

A fire at a warehouse containing explosives at the Port of Beirut led to the massive blast, which leveled a three-story building and was heard across the city and its suburbs.

Footage shared on social media showed smoke from the fire followed by a large mushroom cloud.

More than 3,000 people have been wounded in the blast, Hasan added.

Hasan earlier announced that 50 people were killed and 2,750 others injured.

Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri -- who lives near the area of the explosion -- is said to be unharmed, according to initial reports. However, nearby buildings, including Hariri's residence and Beirut-Rafic Al-Hariri International Airport, suffered major damage.

People are trapped under the debris as rescue workers try to reach them.

Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud, who broke down in tears while speaking to reporters at the blast site, compared the explosion to the horrific nuclear bombings in 1945 of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which instantly killed hundreds of thousands of people.

Kazakhstan's ambassador to Beirut was injured and the embassy building was damaged, according to a statement.

Also, Nazar Najarian, the leader of Lebanon's Kataeb Party, died of wounds from the blast.

The explosion came at a sensitive time days before the UN’s Special Tribunal for Lebanon is scheduled to announce its verdict in the assassination case of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Later in the day, sources close to Hezbollah denied allegations that the explosion in Beirut was an attack by Israel on their weapon depots.

Israeli officials, who spoke to local media on condition of anonymity, denied Israel's involvement in the incident, saying the explosion could have been an accident.

Lebanon's economy is currently facing its worst crisis in decades.

source: News Feed
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