Canberra Lebanese community reels after Beirut explosion

Dominic Giannini 6 August 2020
Beirut explosion

A huge mushroom cloud erupted over Beirut after an explosion killed at least 78 people, including one Australian. Photo: Facebook.

The Canberra Lebanese community woke to news today that an explosion in Beirut has killed at least 78 people, including one Australian, and injured 4,000 others.

One Canberra resident with family in Beirut, who asked not to be named, said the entire community was devastated by the news.

“We all have family over there either directly or indirectly so we are all affected,” the woman said.

“We need to be more focused on what is happening now.”

The Lebanese Ambassador in Canberra is not issuing any comments until he is briefed further on the matter, Region Media was told.

The blast originated from the port after a fire started in a warehouse before setting off around 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate nearby.

Ammonium nitrate is commonly used in fertiliser production and to make mining explosives.

Reports from Beirut say the warehouse had been the subject of safety notifications going back to at least 2014, although Prime Minister Hassan Diab has been cautious not to pre-empt an investigation into the blast.

The scale of the damage is believed to be enormous and there are reports of buildings miles from the port being destroyed.

Hospitals have been placed under immense pressure and are issuing please for blood donations and generators to keep the lights going.

The destructive blast flipped cars and damaged buildings kilometres away, including the Australian Embassy, where almost all windows were blown out of the building.

Despite the Embassy building being “impacted significantly, all staff have been accounted for and only sustained minor injuries such as cuts and scratches”, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

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