Mr. Shehadeh Khalaf who speak with newsmen while still covered with blood in the hospital said "I was sitting on the stairs ... next thing I remember I was on the ground covered with shattered glass and people screaming," said Shehadeh Khalaf, 67, who said he was helped at the hospital but left because there were so many more people in dire need. "I'm still covered in blood."
The blast, which struck shortly after 6 p.m. local time with the force of a 3.5 magnitude earthquake, according to Germany’s geosciences center GFZ, followed a fire that broke out in the city's port area, based on multiple videos from the scene.
What caused the blast?
The cause of the explosion has yet to be officially determined, but Abbas Ibrahim, chief of Lebanese General Security, said it might have been caused by highly explosive material that was stored at the port after it was confiscated from a ship. The material was identified as ammonium nitrate in a tweet on the Lebanese presidential account.
"It is unacceptable that a shipment of ammonium nitrate estimated at 2,750 tons has been present for six years in a warehouse without taking preventive measures that endanger the safety of citizens," Prime Minister Hassan Diab said according to the tweet.
Videos showed an orange cloud over Beirut's port after the explosion, which is consistent with a nitrate-related explosion. Explosives experts and video footage suggested the ammonium nitrate may have been ignited by a fire at what appeared to be a nearby warehouse containing fireworks.