Search continues after deadly Beirut blast

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5:15 p.m. ET, August 6, 2020

What we know about the blast in Beirut

A massive explosion that rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Tuesday left at least 137 people dead and thousands injured.

Here's what we know about the blast so far:

  • Ongoing investigation: At least 16 employees of Beirut's port have been detained as part of an investigation into the explosion that shook the capital, Lebanese National News [NNA] agency said Thursday.
  • International support: The US military is sending three C-17 transport aircrafts to Lebanon in order to provide relief supplies to the Lebanese people. French aid to Beirut "will not go to corrupt hands," French President Emmanuel Macron told Lebanese protesters on Thursday, an Elysée spokesperson told CNN.
  • The blast: The explosion took place at 6:07 p.m. local time Tuesday near Beirut's port and central district, close to many highly-populated areas and tourist sites. Beirut's governor Marwan Abboud told reporters that the explosion had resulted in an estimated $3 to $5 billion in damage.
  • The aftermath: A crater created by the explosion appeared to be roughly 124 meters, or 405 feet, in diameter — well over a football field in length, according to CNN analysis of a Planet Labs, Inc. satellite image.
  • Impact to residents: Abboud told Jordan's state-owned channel Al Mamlaka that at least 300,000 people were "unable to sleep in their homes."

4:38 p.m. ET, August 6, 2020

How to help Beirut explosion victims

From CNN's Lauren Lee

Smoke rises above wrecked buildings at the city's port on August 5, 2020 in Beirut, Lebanon.
Smoke rises above wrecked buildings at the city's port on August 5, 2020 in Beirut, Lebanon. Marwan Tahtah/Getty Images

At least 137 people are dead and 5,000 wounded following an explosion in Lebanon's capital city of Beirut. The city is decimated with thousands of residents left homeless, a medical system already strained from coronavirus and up to $5 billion worth of damage.

Several charities are on the ground providing medical care, shelter, supplies and other services to help the city recover and rebuild.

You can help raise funds for supplies and assistance so desperately needed by clicking here.

1:42 p.m. ET, August 6, 2020

International conference being organized to help Lebanon, French president says

From CNN's Schams Elwazer

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at a press conference in Beirut, Lebanon, on August 6.
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at a press conference in Beirut, Lebanon, on August 6. Thibault Camus/Pool/AP

French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday that France was organizing an international conference to help raise support for Lebanon in the aftermath of Tuesday’s devastating blast at Beirut port.

Within a few days, France will help organize “an international conference of support and assistance for Beirut and the Lebanese population to mobilize international funding on the part of the Europeans, Americans and all the countries of the region and beyond, in order to provide medicine and food and all that is necessary for housing,” Macron told reporters in Beirut.

Macron visited the capital earlier in the day and met with representatives of multiple political parties and civil society groups. 

Macron said that any funds raised in an upcoming international conference to help Lebanon would be handled with “full transparency.”

He promised “clear and transparent governance, whether it’s French or international” to ensure the funds are “directly provided to the local population, the NGOs and teams on site that need it.”

WATCH:

12:39 p.m. ET, August 6, 2020

This bride thought "I'm going to die" when the blast went off at her wedding photoshoot

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Dr. Israa Seblani poses for her wedding photos in Beirut, Lebanon, on August 4.
Dr. Israa Seblani poses for her wedding photos in Beirut, Lebanon, on August 4. Mahmoud Nakib

It was all captured on video. A short block from her wedding venue, 29-year-old Dr. Israa Seblani was in the middle of a pose for her wedding photoshoot when the explosion happened in Beirut. Seblani, her husband, Ahmad Sbeih, and the video crew ran for cover with destruction all around them.

“At that moment, one thing I thought about, “Now, I'm losing my life, I'm losing my husband, I’m going to be buried under a building, now I'm going to die. Now I'm waiting the moment. How I'm going to die? Is it going to be fast? Am I going to feel it? Am I going to be near him?’” she said.

Seblani, a US resident and Lebanon native, was in Beirut to get married because her husband had not gotten a US visa, despite waiting for three years. Not wanting to be apart any longer, they decided to celebrate in the capital city of Lebanon, where their love first blossomed, CNN’s Jomana Karadsheh reported.

When Seblani returned to the wedding venue, she said the beautiful restaurant had transformed into a “nightmare.”

“It turned out into a ghost town, filled with dust, shattered glass. People yelling, bleeding.”

Prior to the wedding, she had done a final run through of the bridal suite where the couple would spend the night after the party. She was excited about the decorations. But when they returned, the red rose petals thrown off the bed were all that remained of the romance they envisioned, Karadsheh reported, adding that in a city where life was turned upside down in seconds, the couple are just grateful to be alive.

WATCH:

12:22 p.m. ET, August 6, 2020

IMF chief says "it is time to address the deep economic crisis" in Lebanon

From CNN's Chris Liakos

Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, attends a meeting in Washington, DC, on October 15, 2019.
Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, attends a meeting in Washington, DC, on October 15, 2019. Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund said it is time to address the deep economic crisis Lebanon is facing, urging both sides to overcome “the impasse in the discussions on critical reforms.”

“In the aftermath of the terrible tragedy in Lebanon, it is time for national unity - to overcome this disaster, as well as to address the deep economic and social crisis that the country continues to face,” IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said in a statement Thursday.

“The IMF is exploring all possible ways to support the people of Lebanon. It is essential to overcome the impasse in the discussions on critical reforms and put in place a meaningful program to turn around the economy and build accountability and trust in the future of the country,” she added.

Georgieva also called on the international community and the friends of Lebanon to step up to help the country in this moment of urgent need.

Lebanon defaulted on some of its debt in March seeking a $10 billion IMF loan, but bailout talks with IMF have stalled.

 

11:56 a.m. ET, August 6, 2020

US will send 3 C-17 transport aircrafts with relief supplies to Lebanon

From CNN's Ryan Browne

The US military is sending three C-17 transport aircrafts to Lebanon in order to provide relief supplies to the Lebanese people following the deadly Beirut explosion.

The commander of US Central Command, Gen. Frank Mckenzie, informed the commander of Lebanon's Armed Forces "of the impending delivery of three C-17s shipments of U.S. relief supplies including food, water, and medical supplies," a spokesperson for US Central Command said in a statement.

11:52 a.m. ET, August 6, 2020

This elderly couple is one of thousands who can't return to their destroyed home

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

George Faraoun went to his parents’ retirement home that looked directly on to the Beirut port that was the site of the massive explosion on Tuesday.

It completely destroyed the apartment, causing a wall to collapse over Faraoun’s mother. Dried blood marks the spot where she was resting in bed. She’s still in the hospital, CNN's Ben Wedeman reports.

Given the damage, his parents will probably never be able to move back. Many neighbors were badly injured and others were killed, Wedeman reports.

Faraoun went with a friend for what he can salvage from the remains.

“This is their life. Everything they did here. Look what happened,” he said.

Beirut's governor, Marwan Abboud, told Jordan's state-owned channel Al Mamlaka that at least 300,000 people were "unable to sleep in their homes," adding that "half of Beirut's population have homes that are unlivable for the foreseeable future — for the next two weeks."

WATCH:

11:46 a.m. ET, August 6, 2020

Iraq cleric calls on people across the world to stand with Lebanon 

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq

Smoke rises above destroyed buildings at Beirut's port on August 5.
Smoke rises above destroyed buildings at Beirut's port on August 5. Marwan Tahtah/Getty Images

Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, called on people across the world to stand with the Lebanese people following the massive explosion in the city of Beirut on Tuesday that killed at least 137 people. 

"We call on all believers and altruists across the world to stand in solidify with them in this difficult circumstance and help them with all available means to mitigate the effects of this catastrophic," according to a statement released by Al-Sistani's office 

"The supreme religious authority in the holy city of Najaf expresses its deep sorrow and regret the tragic incident in Beirut after a massive explosion occurred in its port," the statement added.

9:58 a.m. ET, August 6, 2020

What you need to know about ammonium nitrate

From CNN's Jessie Yeung

Lebanese soldiers watch as a helicopter fights a fire at the scene of an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on August 4.
Lebanese soldiers watch as a helicopter fights a fire at the scene of an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on August 4. STR/AFP/Getty Images

Lebanese officials have pointed to a possible cause of the massive explosion that tore through Beirut: Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the devastating blast was caused by 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate. 

The dangerous compound — also known as AN — could be traced back to a massive shipment of agricultural fertilizer that had been stored in the port of Beirut without safety precautions for years, despite warnings from local officials. 

AN doesn't burn, but if exposed to heat, it can melt — which releases combustible toxic gases that can cause an explosion. It's even more dangerous if there is a large supply of AN all stored together, because once a small section of AN begins to melt and explode, the resulting heat can set off the rest of the supply.

Other AN disasters: One of the worst disasters in US history involving a form of ammonia occurred in April 1947 when a ship loaded with ammonium nitrate caught fire while docked in Texas City. The fire caused an explosion and additional fires that damaged more than 1,000 buildings and killed nearly 400 people, according to the website of the Texas Historical Association.

For perspective, that explosion was triggered by 2,300 US tons (about 2087 metric tons) of ammonium nitrate, according to US Homeland Security.

And the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing, a US domestic terror attack that killed 169 people and injured 467, used only two US tons (1.8 metric tons) of ammonium nitrate.