AUGUST 6, 2020: The death toll from the massive blast at the port in Beirut reached at least 135 by 5am Malaysian time and is expected to rise as dozens more people are listed as missing.
A further 5,000 people are injured, with hospitals working against the odds to deal with the catastrophe that happened around 6pm Beirut time Tuesday.
Apart from these casualties, the government has said that at least 300,000 people have been left homeless as almost all buildings within a one-kilometre radius were destroyed and others up to a nine-km radius damage, including the international airport and the presidential palace. The blast was so powerful that it was heard on the island of Cyprus about 160 kilometres away.
One hospital about a kilometre away from the blast at a warehouse storing 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate was badly damaged and several nurses and other staff killed while three other hospitals were shut.
The government has declared a state of emergency for two weeks while also deciding to play officials responsible for storing and managing the consignment at the port for the last six years placed under house arrest.
Press reports said the highly explosive ammonium nitrate that was transferred from a ship that was impounded and was stored against the advice of Customs, with others, including judges, doing nothing to dispose it.
Assistance in the form of medical personnel, medicines and equipment to set up field hospitals are on the way from Italy, Turkey, Qatar and Russia among others to a country that is was already in political and economic turmoil, with the Covid-19 pandemic worsening an already challenging situation for a government that has been under so much pressure due to allegations of mismanagement and corruption.