Lebanon

Beirut blast: Trump says explosion "a bomb of some kind"

The U.S. president said that he had spoken with military officials who think the Lebanon blast that has left over 70 people dead seemed to be an attack.

Beirut blast: Trump says explosion "a bomb of some kind"
STR AFP

Follow live coverage of the aftermath of the explosion

Lebanon’s Health Minister Hamad Hasan has confirmed that at least 70 people have been killed and several thousand injured in a huge blast in Beirut’s port area. Prime Minister Hassan Diab said those responsible for the explosion would “pay the price” as the international community rallied to provide aid. 

The cause of the blast remains unclear but the authorities in Lebanon are working on the assumption that is was an accident and not a deliberate act. The country’s Internal Security Forces commander Major General Imad Osman said the blast occurred in a warehouse storage area where highly explosive materials that had been seized by the country's security forces were being kept

Trump: Beirut blast "a bomb of some kind"

Update: the explosion has been confirmed by the Lebanese president to have been caused by ammonium nitrate stored unsafely at the port, and not a bomb or deliberately placed explosive device.

President Donald Trump cast the explosion as a possible attack and offered U.S. help.

"The United States stands ready to assist Lebanon," Trump said at a White House briefing. "We will be there to help. It looks like a terrible attack."

When asked later about his depiction of the explosion, Trump said that he had spoken with U.S. military officials who think the blast seemed to be an attack, "a bomb of some kind."

Prime Minister Diab said that those responsible for an explosion at the "dangerous" warehouse would be held accountable.

"I promise you that this catastrophe will not pass without accountability. ... Those responsible will pay the price," he said in a televised speech. "Facts about this dangerous warehouse that has been there since 2014 will be announced and I will not preempt the investigations."

Israel, Saudi Arabia, UK offer assistance

Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UK immediately offered assistance.

"Israel has approached Lebanon through international security and diplomatic channels and has offered the Lebanese government medical and humanitarian assistance," a written statement from Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said.

"The pictures and videos from Beirut tonight are shocking," UK Primer Minister Boris Johnson wrote on Twitter. "All of my thoughts and prayers are with those caught up in this terrible incident. The UK is ready to provide support in any way we can, including to those British nationals affected."

Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry also expressed its “great concern” after the devastating explosion, according to the state news agency.

The statement also affirmed the kingdom's full support and solidarity with the Lebanese people.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah said all of the country's political powers must to overcome the "painful catastrophe" and unite after the tragedy.