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Beirut sees blast ‘equivalent to a kiloton nuclear bomb’

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Over 4,000 were injured with dozens killed and missing in a massive explosion that some likened to a nuclear explosion in Beirut, Lebanon yesterday. The cause of the explosion is unclear, but it involved over 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate in a warehouse near the city’s port which exploded into a mushroom cloud over the area.

A video of the explosion caught by a BBC livestream featured several small explosions that alarmed the BBC’s Lina Sinjab, who could be seen reacting to the smaller blasts before a larger explosion knocked her to the ground.

The cause of the blast is unclear, but Israel was quick to disclaim any responsibility for the disaster. Israel is engaged in fighting against Iranian-supported Hezbollah near the Lebanese border.

“Israel has nothing to do with the incident,” said one Israeli official who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Shortly after the blast, President Trump indicated that the mishap may have been a deliberate attack as indicated in his briefing by top U.S. generals.

“According to them – they would know better than I would – but they seem to think it was an attack,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “It was a bomb of some kind.”

Trump is often willing to be more candid than other U.S. officials, especially with intelligence briefings that often give incomplete, snap impressions  

The Pentagon later said that it’s not clear what caused the explosion.

Anthony May, a retired U.S. government explosive expert, said that it looks like the blast involved more than an ammonium nitrate accident.

Photos of the explosion show a dark, rust-colored cloud that May says indicates that some other explosive was at work.

“I’m not saying that ammonium nitrate was not involved in this, it may have been but it appears that there were other items in there as well,” May said according to CNN.

May said that there is no evidence that nuclear materials were involved but said the blast yield was “typical of what would be equivalent to a kiloton nuclear bomb going off as far as the explosive weight is concerned.”

Chris Hunter, a counter-terrorist bomb disposal operator familiar with Beirut, told Sky News that the red smoke could indicate a fire of dyed materials or furniture.

“The very first thing I thought when I saw this huge explosion was that it’s very unlikely to be gunpowder or ammunition in an area like that,” said Hunter. “It’s more consistent with a confined low explosion, something like a firework explosion.”

Lebanese Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, vowed that no matter the cause, the country will find those responsible for the disaster.

“What happened today will not pass without accountability. Those responsible for this catastrophe will pay the price,” he said in a televised address.

Witnesses said the scene by the port resembled a battlefield as health organizations called for blood donors to help the injured.

“Local media showed people trapped beneath rubble and video footage showed wrecked cars and blast-damaged buildings. Hospitals were said to be overwhelmed,” says the BBC.

The Lebanese government says that the areas port, housing and commercial buildings may have to be raised and rebuilt at a cost of between $3-5 billion.

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