Search for survivors after Beirut blast kills at least 100 people and injures more than 4,000

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It is not yet known how many British nationals are among those caught up in the aftermath of a huge blast in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, the Foreign Office has confirmed.

The blast, which happened on Tuesday, killed at least 100 people and injured more than 4,000 others. More than 100 people are believed to be missing.

Assistant director for crisis management at Red Cross Lebanon Rodney Eid said he expects the death toll to rise.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Government is “ready to provide support in any way we can”, while the Foreign Office said it is “monitoring the situation closely”.

In a tweet, Mr Johnson said: “The pictures and videos from Beirut tonight are shocking. 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.”



Screengrab issued by Karim Sokhn showing footage of the blast in Beirut

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said that all embassy staff based in Beirut are accounted for, but that some have suffered “non-life-threatening injuries”.

Footage of a huge mushroom cloud rising above the Middle Eastern city were shared on social media on Tuesday evening local time.

Lebanon President Michel Aoun said the blast was caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate being stored unsafely in a warehouse.

Abbas Ibrahim, chief of Lebanese General Security, said the blast might have been caused by highly explosive material that was confiscated from a ship some time ago and stored at the port.

Local television channel LBC said the material was sodium nitrate.

Witnesses reported seeing a strange orange-coloured cloud over the site after the explosion. Orange clouds of toxic nitrogen dioxide gas often accompany an explosion involving nitrates.

US President Donald Trump said US military generals had told him they “seem to feel” the explosion was the result of a “terrible attack” most likely caused by a bomb.

“It would seem like it based on the explosion,” Mr Trump told reporters in Washington.

Mr Gibb said the US President was “premature to speculate”.

“The Lebanese government have announced that they are conducting an inquiry and we are ready to help support the Lebanese government with any technical support that they need, but this is a tragedy and the Lebanese authorities are, of course, investigating the cause of that tragedy and I think before we have the results of that inquiry, I think it is premature to speculate,” he told Sky News.”

Mr Gibb went on: “We are, as a Government, working urgently this morning on what support we can offer to the Lebanese government, whether that is technical support or financial support.”

He added that the Government “don’t know yet” how many British nationals are affected and that “the prime minister of Lebanon has asked for assistance”.

Former Middle East minister Alistair Burt said he expects the tragedy to lead to “some degree of political shake-up” in Lebanon.

“Whether or not something like this does bring the political processes in Lebanon together to appreciate they can’t go on as they are, that will be another thing, but at the moment I think we should focus on the disaster consequences, be as supportive as possible in relation to that,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“But I would imagine it will require some degree of political shake-up as well.”

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: “All embassy staff are accounted for. A small number have sustained non-life-threatening injuries and, where necessary, are receiving medical attention.

“It is a fast-moving situation and we are monitoring the situation closely. We stand ready to offer consular support to British nationals affected.

“People should check FCO travel advice, which is updated regularly and includes contact details for those requiring consular assistance.”

Chris Rampling, the British ambassador to Lebanon, said the UK Government was “urgently” looking at how to support the country.

He tweeted: “All my thoughts have been with the Lebanese people, British Nationals, all my friends/colleagues. Deepest condolences to all who lost loved ones in this unimaginable tragedy.”



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