Lebanon will investigate if bomb caused blast

A map showing the scale of Beirut's port explosion that was felt across the region

The explosion killed more than 150 people and injured at least 5,000. The blast shredded a large grain silo, devastated neighborhoods near the port and left several city blocks littered with glass and rubble.

Earlier, French President Emmanuel Macron, who visited the Lebanese capital on Thursday stressed on implementing deep reforms ahead of the upcoming aid conference.

Many have raised questions as to how such a huge cargo of highly explosive material could have been left unsecured for years.

An investigation has been started by the government, which has come under mounting criticism after many Lebanese blamed the catastrophe on negligence and corruption.

Meanwhile, the makeshift hospital set up by the Russian team at a stadium near the explosion site said it had treated 12 people since Thursday. Lebanese firefighters are also working at the demolished port, where bulldozers and excavators were churning through the rubble.

Dozens of people are still missing, and at the entrance to the port a family waited for news of a relative.

The UN children's agency UNICEF has said almost 80,000 children are among the 300,000 people left homeless, including many who have been separated from their families. Officials have estimated losses at $10 billion to $15 billion.

Damaged hospitals, already strained by the coronavirus pandemic, are still struggling to deal with the wounded.

They include port and customs officials as well as maintenance workers and their managers, Akiki said. The ruling factions use public institutions to accumulate wealth and distribute patronage to supporters.

The blast rocked Lebanon while the country is experiencing its worst economic crisis, including a dramatic drop in the value of the Lebanese pound against the USA dollar. During a visit to Beirut on Thursday, Macron said that a transparent worldwide inquiry was needed.

The president of the European Council, which represents EU leaders, Charles Michel, will head to Beirut on Saturday as Brussels readied to support the Lebanese capital after a devastating explosion. He said France is sending a team of 22 investigators to help probe the blast.

What ignited the massive shipment of the chemical remains unclear - officials have said work had recently begun on repairs to the warehouse, while others suspected fireworks stored either in the same place or nearby.

In an interview with The Associated Press, he predicted "the death toll will grow" as more bodies are found.

Eric Berot, chief of a unit involved in the investigation, says the zone the investigators cover "is enormous".

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Friday that a Lebanese investigation into the blast would examine whether it was caused by a bomb or other external interference or if it was due to negligence or an accident.



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