It has been claimed that the huge explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, that killed over 100 people and injured more than 4,000, was caused by a welder at work.
Close to where the welder was working, there was “highly explosive sodium nitrate” confiscated from a ship by Lebanese authorities and placed in one of the warehouses located near the harbour. The ammonium nitrate – more than 2,750 tons – had been stored in the warehouse for six years.
Security sources in the country have claimed the welder sparked the initial fire that in turn ignited the chemicals, causing a blast that has been compared to a “nuclear bomb”.
The head of Lebanon’s Red Cross said: “What we are witnessing is a huge catastrophe. There are victims and casualties everywhere.”
Ammonium nitrate is mainly used as a fertilizer but has also been linked to terror attacks after being used in homemade bombs.
General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim said it had been confiscated years earlier, reportedly from a ship.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun has declared a state of emergency for Beirut for two weeks – and vowed the “harshest punishments” for those responsible for causing the explosion.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab described the disaster as a “national catastrophe” and added that “those responsible will pay the price”.
His wife and daughter were injured in the explosion after it damaged his residence at The Government Palace.