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Head teacher admits murdering wife and her company director lover in New Year’s Day double killing

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head teacher admits murdering wife and her company director lover in new years day double killing

A jealous headteacher is facing life in jail after murdering his estranged wife and her new boyfriend in a New Year’s Day bloodbath at the former marital home.

Rhys Hancock, 40, went berserk and stabbed to death Helen Almey, 39, and Martin Griffiths, 48, after finding out she had found love again.

The new couple died from stab wounds after being found by police at the detached property Ms Almey previously shared with him in Duffield, Derbys.

Mrs Hancock (nee Almey), a graduate of Loughborough University, was well-known in the community and helped out with the neighbourhood watch

Mrs Hancock (nee Almey), a graduate of Loughborough University, was well-known in the community and helped out with the neighbourhood watch

Martin Griffiths, 48, also died at the property in the upmarket village of Duffield, near Derby, where the new couple were stabbed to death.

Martin Griffiths, 48, also died at the property in the upmarket village of Duffield, near Derby, where the new couple were stabbed to death.

Victim: Mother-of-three Helen Hancock (nee Almey, pictured), 39, was stabbed to death alongside her new partner Martin Griffiths in the early hours of New Year’s Day as it emerged police were at the house days earlier

Rhys Hancock (pictured), the 39-year-old husband of Helen Hancock, will appear at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates Court on Friday morning for the double murder of his wife and Martin Griffiths

Rhys Hancock (pictured), the 39-year-old husband of Helen Hancock, will appear at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates Court on Friday morning for the double murder of his wife and Martin Griffiths

Rhys Hancock (pictured), the 39-year-old husband of Helen Hancock, will appear at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates Court on Friday morning for the double murder of his wife and Martin Griffiths

Derbyshire Police confirmed that it had referred itself to Britain's police watchdog the IOPC in the wake of the deaths 'due to contact between Mrs Hancock and officers prior to the incident' - police are pictured during their investigations on Thursday January 2 in Duffield, Derbyshire

Derbyshire Police confirmed that it had referred itself to Britain's police watchdog the IOPC in the wake of the deaths 'due to contact between Mrs Hancock and officers prior to the incident' - police are pictured during their investigations on Thursday January 2 in Duffield, Derbyshire

Derbyshire Police confirmed that it had referred itself to Britain’s police watchdog the IOPC in the wake of the deaths ‘due to contact between Mrs Hancock and officers prior to the incident’ – police are pictured during their investigations on Thursday January 2 in Duffield, Derbyshire

Today Hancock, of Etwall, Derbys, pleaded guilty at Derby Crown Court to two counts of murder via video link and was told he would be sentenced at a later date.

PE teacher Ms Almey and Mr Griffiths, a company director of a marketing firm, were discovered in a pool of blood at the £400,000 property on New Zealand Lane just after 4am.

Despite the best efforts of paramedics they were both pronounced dead at the scene.

Hancock, who has three children, aged nine, four and three, with his wife was arrested after he dialled 999 himself.

Estranged: Helen Hancock (nee Almey) was found dead at the home she once shared with her estranged headteacher husband, Rhys Hancock (pictured together)

Estranged: Helen Hancock (nee Almey) was found dead at the home she once shared with her estranged headteacher husband, Rhys Hancock (pictured together)

Estranged: Helen Hancock (nee Almey) was found dead at the home she once shared with her estranged headteacher husband, Rhys Hancock (pictured together)

Hours after the tragedy Claire Griffiths (right) changed her cover photo on Facebook to a picture of her with her estranged husband in happier times. They are believed to have separated in 2019

Hours after the tragedy Claire Griffiths (right) changed her cover photo on Facebook to a picture of her with her estranged husband in happier times. They are believed to have separated in 2019

Hours after the tragedy Claire Griffiths (right) changed her cover photo on Facebook to a picture of her with her estranged husband in happier times. They are believed to have separated in 2019

Investigation: A double murder probe underway in Duffield after police had been called to the scene at 4am

Investigation: A double murder probe underway in Duffield after police had been called to the scene at 4am

Investigation: A double murder probe underway in Duffield after police had been called to the scene at 4am

A court heard he had travelled all the way to his former home after discovering on Boxing Day his wife had started a relationship with another man.

Ms Almey, who had walked out on Hancock just a few months earlier, was stabbed with such ferocity the knife’s handle went into her stomach.

Prosecutor Jeanette Stevenson said at an earlier hearing: “They had separated some time ago.

“His mother called 999 and informed the police that he had gone back to his former home.

Asked about the tragedy Mrs Griffiths, 40, said today: 'Absolutely devastated for me, my children and all involved

Asked about the tragedy Mrs Griffiths, 40, said today: 'Absolutely devastated for me, my children and all involved

Asked about the tragedy Mrs Griffiths, 40, said today: ‘Absolutely devastated for me, my children and all involved

A cordon in place at the property (pictured) where Helen and her new partner were murdered

A cordon in place at the property (pictured) where Helen and her new partner were murdered

A cordon in place at the property (pictured) where Helen and her new partner were murdered

“He found out on Boxing Day that his wife was seeing another man.

“He left his mothers address, where his children were also staying, with two knives. His mother said he felt like killing them.

“The police tried to contact Mrs Hancock but they could only reach her answerphone.

“Police received another 999 call from Mr Hancock saying he had murdered his wife and that the children were safe at his mother’s house.

Police combing the street for evidence that will link the killer to the scene where a new couple died on New Year's Day

Police combing the street for evidence that will link the killer to the scene where a new couple died on New Year's Day

Police combing the street for evidence that will link the killer to the scene where a new couple died on New Year’s Day

Officers were on ladders inspecting the roof and pulling up drains in Duffield as they look for clues and perhaps a murder weapon

Officers were on ladders inspecting the roof and pulling up drains in Duffield as they look for clues and perhaps a murder weapon

Officers were on ladders inspecting the roof and pulling up drains in Duffield as they look for clues and perhaps a murder weapon

Officers were on ladders inspecting the roof and pulling up drains in Duffield as they look for clues and perhaps a murder weapon

Officers were on ladders inspecting the roof and pulling up drains in Duffield as they look for clues and perhaps a murder weapon 

Helen, who started using her maiden name Almey again, split with her husband Rhys in 2019

Helen, who started using her maiden name Almey again, split with her husband Rhys in 2019

Helen, who started using her maiden name Almey again, split with her husband Rhys in 2019

“Officers at the scene found Mr Griffiths dead when they arrived. They tried to resuscitate Mrs Hancock for 15 minutes before stopping.

“Mr Hancock was arrested at the scene and then questioned about the murders and before being charged.”

Devastated family members previously paid tribute to “beautiful and bubbly” Ms Almey and adventure-mad Mr Griffiths.

Ms Almey’s family said in a statement: “The family are devastated at the loss of Helen who was a lovely, beautiful, friendly, bubbly and social person.

Helen was well-known and much loved in her village, where many said they were bereft for her children

Helen was well-known and much loved in her village, where many said they were bereft for her children

Helen was well-known and much loved in her village, where many said they were bereft for her children

Family: Neighbours said Mrs Hancock (nee Almey) had recently started a relationship after separating from Mr Hancock, who is the father of her children, aged nine, seven and four

Family: Neighbours said Mrs Hancock (nee Almey) had recently started a relationship after separating from Mr Hancock, who is the father of her children, aged nine, seven and four

Family: Neighbours said Mrs Hancock (nee Almey) had recently started a relationship after separating from Mr Hancock, who is the father of her children, aged nine, seven and four 

Forensic officers at the scene in Duffield, Derbyshire after two people were found dead

Forensic officers at the scene in Duffield, Derbyshire after two people were found dead

Forensic officers at the scene in Duffield, Derbyshire after two people were found dead

“We would like to thank people for allowing us privacy at this most difficult of times.”

Relatives of Mr Griffiths, who lived in Derby, added: “Martin was a lovely dad, husband, son, brother and uncle, who had a passion for adventure, running and a love of animals.

“He enjoyed travelling the world, mountain climbing and spending time with his two children.

“He will be greatly missed. We would also like to ask that people respect our privacy and allow us space to grieve as we attempt to come to terms with his death.”

Neighbours had previously spoke of how Ms Almey had been “finally getting her life back together” after kicking her husband out for good.

They also told how they heard screams in the street of “They’re dead. They’re dead. What have you f******g done?” at around 3am on New Year’s Day

Derbyshire Police previously said the force had referred itself to the police watchdog over contact they had with Ms Almey prior to her death.

It is understood officers were called to her semi-detached home over the Christmas period after she rang 999 for help.

Chief Superintendent Hayley Barnett, of Derbyshire Police, said: “The thoughts of everyone at Derbyshire Constabulary are with the family and friends of Mrs Hancock and Mr Griffiths.

“Our thoughts are also with the Duffield community, which is understandably shocked by this incident.”

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Beirut explosion: Wedding photos interrupted by massive blast

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beirut explosion wedding photos interrupted by massive blast

This is the terrifying moment a bridal photoshoot was interrupted by the massive explosion which tore through the Lebanese capital of Beirut last night, killing at least 100 people and injuring 4,000 more. 

Cameraman Mahmoud Nakib had been in a quiet square to film drone footage of the bride who was decked out in an elaborate white lace wedding dress with her bouquet resting neatly at her feet.

But as Mr Nakib panned past the beaming bride to capture her entire ensemble the scene was rocked by the deafening blast of the explosion as it tore across the city. 

The woman was sent flying by the shockwave as windows shattered around the square and debris filled the air.

Her husband rushed to her aide and the bewildered couple, who were both unharmed, hurried inside a nearby restaurant for shelter.

Alarms continued to sound across the city as many, including the photographer, hurried through the city to assess the devastation. 

It comes as survivors of the cataclysmic explosion were picking through the remains of their city for victims today as the death toll topped 100 and was expected to rise. 

Bride Israa Seblani poses for a picture in the same place where she was taking her wedding photos yesterday at the moment of the explosion

Bride Israa Seblani poses for a picture in the same place where she was taking her wedding photos yesterday at the moment of the explosion

Bride Israa Seblani poses for a picture in the same place where she was taking her wedding photos yesterday at the moment of the explosion

Beirut, once known as the Paris of the Middle East, resembled a huge scrapyard as the sun rose on Wednesday – with barely a building left unscathed in a blast caused by 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that exploded with a fifth of the power of the atomic bomb that levelled Hiroshima.

Street after street, neighbourhood after neighbourhood, buildings were left without roofs or windows, their interiors shredded by the force of the explosion – believed to have been sparked when a welder caused a fire at the port, which in turn set light to a warehouse storing chemicals which had been seized from a ship six years ago.

After a night of shock and awe, the full scale of the calamity now facing Lebanon – a country that was already in the midst of an economic crisis – was laid bare at dawn.

Cameraman Mahmoud Nakib had been in a quiet square of the city to film drone footage of the bride (pictured) who was decked out in an elaborate white lace wedding dress with her bouquet resting neatly at her feet when the blast hit

Cameraman Mahmoud Nakib had been in a quiet square of the city to film drone footage of the bride (pictured) who was decked out in an elaborate white lace wedding dress with her bouquet resting neatly at her feet when the blast hit

Cameraman Mahmoud Nakib had been in a quiet square of the city to film drone footage of the bride (pictured) who was decked out in an elaborate white lace wedding dress with her bouquet resting neatly at her feet when the blast hit

The woman was sent flying by the shockwave as windows shattered around the square and debris filled the air

The woman was sent flying by the shockwave as windows shattered around the square and debris filled the air

Her husband rushed to her aide and the bewildered couple, who were unharmed, hurried inside a nearby restaurant for shelter

Her husband rushed to her aide and the bewildered couple, who were unharmed, hurried inside a nearby restaurant for shelter

The woman was sent flying by the shockwave as windows shattered around the square and debris filled the air. Her husband rushed to her aide and the bewildered couple, who were unharmed, hurried inside a nearby restaurant for shelter

The economic cost of the damage is thought to be around $5billion, but the more-pressing human cost includes 300,000 people left homeless along with dozens of missing, and hospitals creaking under the strain of thousands of wounded.

As authorities began totting up the cost of the disaster the threat of recriminations was also hanging in the air, along with smoke from still-burning fires. 

Prime Minister Hassan Diab vowed those responsible will ‘pay the price’ as he declared a two-week state of emergency to deal with the crisis, urging all world leaders and ‘friends of Lebanon’ to donate aid to the country, adding: ‘We are witnessing a real catastrophe.’  

The US, UK, France, Gulf states and even bitter rivals Israel have offered money and assistance, as President Michel Aoun declared three days of mourning and announced he would release $66million of emergency funds.  

Lebanon has begun the daunting task of trying to clean up its capital Beirut after a devastating explosion tore apart the city's port (pictured) and caused damage across the city after several tons of explosive chemicals ignited

Lebanon has begun the daunting task of trying to clean up its capital Beirut after a devastating explosion tore apart the city's port (pictured) and caused damage across the city after several tons of explosive chemicals ignited

Lebanon has begun the daunting task of trying to clean up its capital Beirut after a devastating explosion tore apart the city’s port (pictured) and caused damage across the city after several tons of explosive chemicals ignited

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Fires were still burning at the destroyed port on Wednesday morning as the full extent of the devastation – in a country that was already in the midst of an economic crisis – was laid bare

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A before and after image showing the damage caused to Beirut’s harbour, including the complete destruction of the warehouse storing the chemicals and the ground underneath it

Survivors of the blast which devastated Beirut overnight were sifting through the ruins of the city on Wednesday for bodies as the death toll rose to 100 with more than 4,000 wounded, and hospitals struggling to cope

Survivors of the blast which devastated Beirut overnight were sifting through the ruins of the city on Wednesday for bodies as the death toll rose to 100 with more than 4,000 wounded, and hospitals struggling to cope

Survivors of the blast which devastated Beirut overnight were sifting through the ruins of the city on Wednesday for bodies as the death toll rose to 100 with more than 4,000 wounded, and hospitals struggling to cope 

Dramatic footage on social media shows people screaming as an enormous blast rocks the waterside area of Lebanon's capital city

Dramatic footage on social media shows people screaming as an enormous blast rocks the waterside area of Lebanon's capital city

Dramatic footage shows smoke billowing from the port area shortly before an enormous fireball explodes into the sky and blankets the city in a thick mushroom cloud

Dramatic footage shows smoke billowing from the port area shortly before an enormous fireball explodes into the sky and blankets the city in a thick mushroom cloud

A warehouse fire sparked by a welder set light to 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that was being stored at the city’s port, causing an explosion with force roughly equal to a fifth of the atomic bomb which levelled Hiroshima

Lebanese soldiers picked through the rubble of buildings for bodies, with the death toll expected to rise further

Lebanese soldiers picked through the rubble of buildings for bodies, with the death toll expected to rise further

Lebanese soldiers picked through the rubble of buildings for bodies, with the death toll expected to rise further

A survivor pulled from the rubble by Lebanese soldiers is rushed to hospital following the blast which devastated Beirut

A survivor pulled from the rubble by Lebanese soldiers is rushed to hospital following the blast which devastated Beirut

A survivor pulled from the rubble by Lebanese soldiers is rushed to hospital following the blast which devastated Beirut

A woman walks past cars that were flattened by falling masonry in the aftermath of a massive explosion in Beirut

A woman walks past cars that were flattened by falling masonry in the aftermath of a massive explosion in Beirut

A woman walks past cars that were flattened by falling masonry in the aftermath of a massive explosion in Beirut

The latest developments came as:

  • It was revealed port authorities repeatedly warned of the dangers of storing the ammonium nitrate without safety measures, saying it was enough to ‘blow up the whole of Beirut’
  • Court documents revealed customs officials had applied at least six times starting in 2014 for the chemicals to be removed, but all of their requests were turned down
  • Lebanon’s President said an investigation into what happened is already underway, and that punishment will be ‘meted out’ to those who deserve it
  • Lebanese people launched desperate appeals to find loved ones – including port workers and a fireman who was called to the initial blaze before the main explosion
  • Locals warned of a major exodus from the country, which was already struggling to feed millions of refugees from the civil war in Syria 

France says it is sending two planes with dozens of emergency workers, a mobile medical unit and 15 tons of aid. French President Emmanuel Macron’s office says the aid should allow for the treatment of some 500 victims.

French peacekeepers stationed in Lebanon, a former French protectorate, have been helping since the explosions, Macron’s office said.

Jordan says a military field hospital including all necessary personnel will be dispatched, according to the Royal Court. Egypt has opened a field hospital in Beirut to receive the wounded.

Trump calls deadly Beirut explosions a ‘terrible attack’ 

President Trump

President Trump

President Trump

President Donald Trump described deadly explosions as a ‘terrible attack’ during a Tuesday press conference, despite no evidence suggesting the blasts were intentional.

A series of massive explosions in the Lebanese capital’s port area rocked the city earlier today, killing at least 70 people and injuring more than 3,000 others. 

‘The United States stands ready to assist Lebanon,’ Trump said at a White House briefing. ‘We will be there to help. It looks like a terrible attack.’

When quizzed by a reporter if he was certain the explosion was in fact an attack, Trump confirmed that he was, insisting he had ‘met with some of our great generals and they seem to feel that it was.

‘They would know better than I would,’ the president continued. ‘They seem to think … it was a bomb of some kind, yes.’

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Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamacek says Lebanon has accepted an offer to send a team of 37 rescuers with sniffer dogs to Beirut. Denmark says it is ready to provide humanitarian assistance to Lebanon, and Greece says it is ready to help Lebanese authorities ‘with all means at its disposal.’

Russia’s emergency officials say the country will send five planeloads of aid to Beirut after an explosion in the Lebanese capital’s port killed at least 100 people and injured thousands on Tuesday.

Germany says it is ready to send a team of 47 search-and-rescue experts to Beirut after the enormous explosion in the city’s port on Tuesday killed at least 100 people and injured thousands.

Germany also says its embassy was damaged in the blast but diplomats have reactivated an old building and are able to work.

Meanwhile President Donald Trump last night offered US aid to Lebanon, before calling the explosion a ‘terrible attack’ and claiming that his generals had said it appeared to have been caused by a ‘bomb of some kind’, without offering evidence. 

Robert Baer, a former CIA operative who operated for years in the Middle East, stuck a more nuanced tone -saying the explosion appears to have been an accident, but he is not convinced that ammonium nitrate was the sole cause.

He pointed to videos of what appeared to be fireworks going off amid a pall of white smoke, right before the main blast which sent a column of reddish-brown smoke high into the sky.

Baer told CNN that those ‘fireworks’ were likely munitions that had been stored as part of a weapons cache that included military-grade propellant.

‘It was clearly a military explosive,’ he said. ‘It was not fertilizer like ammonium nitrate. I’m quite sure of that.’ 

But he added that it would likely take years to learn the truth of what caused the blast, if it was ever revealed, because ‘no one is going to want to admit they kept military explosives at the port’.

Lebanon is effectively run by Hezbollah, an Iranian paramilitary group with a history of secrecy.

The U.S. embassy in Beirut warned residents in the city about reports of toxic gases released by the blast, urging people to stay indoors and wear masks if available. 

Thousands of people have also been left homeless by the blast, which threatened a mass exodus from the Mediterranean country that was already suffering with coronavirus, poor governance, and an economic crisis. 

‘We’ve had some dark days in Lebanon over the years but this is something else,’ said Rami Rifai, a 38-year-old engineer, speaking to AFP from a hospital where his two daughters were receiving treatment after sustaining cuts despite being half a kilometre from the seat of the blast.

‘We already had the economic crisis, a government of thieves and coronavirus. I didn’t think it could get worse but now I don’t know if this country can get up again. Everyone is going to try to leave. I will try to leave,’ he said, his voice choked by tears.

Firefighters had already been on the scene dealing with an initial blaze when the explosion took place. One security source told Reuters that the initial fire was caused during welding work on a hole in a warehouse wall.

Sources said the blaze started at warehouse 9 of the port and spread to warehouse 12, where the ammonium nitrate was stored. 

One Israeli bomb expert suggested fireworks could have been stored in one of the warehouses close to the ammonium nitrate.

Explosives certification expert Boaz Hayoun said: ‘Before the big explosion … in the center of the fire, you can see sparks, you can hear sounds like popcorn and you can hear whistles. This is very specific behavior of fireworks.’ 

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A drone captures the devastation wrought by the explosion, including a watery crater (bottom left) where the warehouse containing the explosive chemicals previously stood

An aerial image of port before the explosion took place, showing the now-destroyed grain silo at the centre of the image with the warehouse containing the explosives to the left of it - which is now completely gone

An aerial image of port before the explosion took place, showing the now-destroyed grain silo at the centre of the image with the warehouse containing the explosives to the left of it - which is now completely gone

An aerial image of port before the explosion took place, showing the now-destroyed grain silo at the centre of the image with the warehouse containing the explosives to the left of it – which is now completely gone

An aerial view shows the massive damage at Beirut port's grain silos and the area around it

An aerial view shows the massive damage at Beirut port's grain silos and the area around it

An aerial view shows the massive damage at Beirut port’s grain silos and the area around it

Beirut's governor estimated that damage from the blast would cost Lebanon up to $5billion, as it destroyed the port through which many of its valuable imports passed (pictured, the remains of the port and a grain silo that was destroyed)

Beirut's governor estimated that damage from the blast would cost Lebanon up to $5billion, as it destroyed the port through which many of its valuable imports passed (pictured, the remains of the port and a grain silo that was destroyed)

Beirut’s governor estimated that damage from the blast would cost Lebanon up to $5billion, as it destroyed the port through which many of its valuable imports passed (pictured, the remains of the port and a grain silo that was destroyed) 

A survivor of the Beirut blast is pulled from rubble of a building that was ripped apart by a shockwave that reverberated around the city, tearing it apart

A survivor of the Beirut blast is pulled from rubble of a building that was ripped apart by a shockwave that reverberated around the city, tearing it apart

A survivor of the Beirut blast is pulled from rubble of a building that was ripped apart by a shockwave that reverberated around the city, tearing it apart

Soldiers use pickaxes to dig through the rubble of buildings in Beirut in a desperate search for survivors on Wednesday

Soldiers use pickaxes to dig through the rubble of buildings in Beirut in a desperate search for survivors on Wednesday

Soldiers use pickaxes to dig through the rubble of buildings in Beirut in a desperate search for survivors on Wednesday

Lebanese soldiers patrol the streets of Beirut on Wednesday to keep the peace after a blast tore the city apart

Lebanese soldiers patrol the streets of Beirut on Wednesday to keep the peace after a blast tore the city apart

Lebanese soldiers patrol the streets of Beirut on Wednesday to keep the peace after a blast tore the city apart

A woman is evacuated from the partially destroyed Beirut neighbourhood of Mar Mikhael in the aftermath of a massive explosion in the Lebanese capital

A woman is evacuated from the partially destroyed Beirut neighbourhood of Mar Mikhael in the aftermath of a massive explosion in the Lebanese capital

A woman is evacuated from the partially destroyed Beirut neighbourhood of Mar Mikhael in the aftermath of a massive explosion in the Lebanese capital

A shockwave caused by the blast left barely a building in the city untouched, with damage reported up to 15 miles away

A shockwave caused by the blast left barely a building in the city untouched, with damage reported up to 15 miles away

A shockwave caused by the blast left barely a building in the city untouched, with damage reported up to 15 miles away

Survivors of the blast walk the streets of the city, looking for victims amid the ruins of their old neighbourhoods

Survivors of the blast walk the streets of the city, looking for victims amid the ruins of their old neighbourhoods

Survivors of the blast walk the streets of the city, looking for victims amid the ruins of their old neighbourhoods

Wounded people are treated at a hospital following the explosion, which has left hundreds of casualties in Beirut last night

Wounded people are treated at a hospital following the explosion, which has left hundreds of casualties in Beirut last night

Wounded people are treated at a hospital following the explosion, which has left hundreds of casualties in Beirut last night

Men gather in a street close to the destroyed port as they sift through the ruins of Beirut to salvage what they can

Men gather in a street close to the destroyed port as they sift through the ruins of Beirut to salvage what they can

Men gather in a street close to the destroyed port as they sift through the ruins of Beirut to salvage what they can

A destroyed facade of a building is seen following the blast on Tuesday. Rescuers worked throughout the night to find people amid the devastation

A destroyed facade of a building is seen following the blast on Tuesday. Rescuers worked throughout the night to find people amid the devastation

A destroyed facade of a building is seen following the blast on Tuesday. Rescuers worked throughout the night to find people amid the devastation

Police and forensic officers work at the scene of an explosion on Wednesday morning and rescuers continue to look for survivors

Police and forensic officers work at the scene of an explosion on Wednesday morning and rescuers continue to look for survivors

Police and forensic officers work at the scene of an explosion on Wednesday morning and rescuers continue to look for survivors

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun (centre) visits the site of a massive explosion the previous day in the heart of the Beirut

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun (centre) visits the site of a massive explosion the previous day in the heart of the Beirut

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun (centre) visits the site of a massive explosion the previous day in the heart of the Beirut

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31562082 8592549 image a 50 1596565451954

Firefighters spent the night battling blazes at the port, which were still burning as the sun came up on Wednesday

Firefighters spent the night battling blazes at the port, which were still burning as the sun came up on Wednesday

Firefighters spent the night battling blazes at the port, which were still burning as the sun came up on Wednesday 

After the second, more devastating explosion, images showed port buildings reduced to tangled masonry, devastating the main entry point to a country that relies on food imports to feed its population of more than six million. 

Charbel Haj, who works at the harbour, said the explosion started as small explosions like firecrackers before he was suddenly thrown off his feet by the huge blast. 

The explosion damaged the Roum Hospital, which put out a call for people to bring it spare generators to keep its electricity going as it evacuated patients because of heavy damage.

Outside the St George University Hospital in Beirut’s Achrafieh neighbuorhood, people with various injuries arrived in ambulances, in cars and on foot.

The explosion had caused major damage inside the building and knocked out the electricity at the hospital. Dozens of injured were being treated on the spot on the street outside, on stretchers and wheelchairs.   

Lebanon’s Red Cross said it had been drowning in calls from injured people, many who are still trapped in their homes.  

How Beirut was torn apart: Videos capture the moment that ceilings collapsed, families sheltered for cover, offices were destroyed and buildings were engulfed in flames during the explosion

A series of videos captured the devastation in Beirut as an explosion tore through the Lebanese capital – killing at least 100 people dead and injuring more than 4,000.

Footage from across the blast site filmed the apocalyptic scenes yesterday which saw ceilings collapse, families shelter for cover, offices ripped apart and buildings engulfed in flames.

It is thought the explosion was triggered by more than 2,750 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate – the main ingredient in fertilizer bombs.

It had been detonated when a fire, apparently sparked by a nearby welder, spread to the warehouse where it had been stored for six years.  

The blast was one of the world’s biggest-ever peacetime explosions.

The massive blast 

One video began filming as a plume of grey smoke billowed from the city’s port.

The woman behind the camera was stood in what appeared to be a bar as she looked back across the city. 

But, just seconds later, the site was rocked by a sudden explosion as a ball of flames burst into the sky with a rumbling bang.

Onlookers screamed and set off running as they tried to find cover as the blast radius began to hurtle toward them.  

Billowing mushroom cloud

A video captured the immediate aftermath of the blast as a massive mushroom cloud was propelled high above dozens of apartment blocks.

The cameraman was stood at his window and looking out across the city toward the initial plume of smoke. 

The mushroom cloud then suddenly appeared in the sky with the impact of the blast triggering car alarms and causing distressed dogs to bark furiously in the background.

It was not until a few seconds later that the sound of the explosion reached the apartment and the cameraman was forced to duck back inside for cover. 

Offices torn apart

Buildings across the capital were rocked by the impact of the explosion.

A reporter for BBC Arabic had been conducting an interview with Faisal Al-Asil, director of projects at the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy, when the devastation hit.

The pair had been talking before a loud rumble could be heard in the background and furniture began to shake.

The BBC reporter looked round the office in shock before the blast ripped through the building as workers screamed.

She dropped to the floor and began whimpering in pain off-screen with Mr Al-Asil and colleagues watching on in horror, helpless to intervene. 

Plumes of smoke

Another video recorded the devastation at the port from a different angle.

Having spotted the large plume of billowing smoke, the cameraman zoomed in on the scene on the ground as tiny silver sparks flashed.

Suddenly the site exploded and sent debris flying into the air before the sound of the blast hit.

The cameraman ran for cover but panned back as red and orange smoke tore through the sky.

Crackling fire 

One video captured the moment a fire crackled furiously inside a warehouse before turning into a blast.

The cameraman stood on the rooftop of a nearby building as he looked down toward the site.

Others could be heard shouting in the background and, as the noise amplified, the cameraman backed away.

There was then a loud blast and the man dropped his camera as he was thrown to the ground. 

Collapsing ceilings 

The explosion also caused devastation at the Saint Maron Parish in Bauchriye during an afternoon service.

Rabih Thoumi, who was unharmed, was peacefully chanting a prayer when suddenly the church was rocked.

He paused momentarily before the lights burst and seconds later the ceiling fell down around him.

Glass could be heard smashing in the background as everyone inside ran toward an exit.   

Red plume of smoke 

One onlooker filmed the moment of the explosion while he was out at sea and looking back toward the mainland.

A group of men could be heard chatting in the background before the source of the grey plume of smoke exploded and sent a red mushroom cloud into the sky.

Alarms blasted in the background from all over the city as the group watched on in disbelief.   

Firework sparks

Another video showed what appeared to be fireworks furiously crackling inside a warehouse at the source of the explosion just seconds before the blast. 

Flashes of silver sparks could be seen inside a building at the port before they escalated into bursts of orange flame.

The blast came just a few seconds later and the man behind the camera was engulfed in debris as he fell to the ground.

Families taking shelter 

One CCTV clip of the blast was taken from inside an apartment as a father and son desperately sought shelter.

The pair huddled together as the initial rumblings began to shake the mirror hanging on the wall.

When the full extent of the blast hit the room filled with smoke. The father scooped his son up into his arms before frantically searching for a place to shelter.

Eventually they clambered under a desk as he tried to reassure his son. 

Extent of the explosion 

One cameraman began filming after the mushroom cloud had already been sent billowing into the sky following the initial blast.

He panned up to the aftermath before the sound of the explosion eventually reached the car park he was standing in.

The over-whelming noise sent him flying backwards before he panned back to see what had happened. 

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Miles from the scene of the blast, balconies were knocked down, ceiling collapsed and windows were shattered.  

Beirut’s main airport, six miles away from the port, was reportedly damaged by the explosion, with pictures showing sections of collapsed ceiling. 

Beirut’s governor told journalists he does not know the cause of the explosion and said he had never seen such destruction, comparing the sobering scenes to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  

Local Fady Roumieh was stood in the car park to shopping centre ABC Mall Achrafieh, around 2km east of the blast, when the explosion occurred.

He said: ‘It was like a nuclear bomb. The damage is so widespread and severe all over the city. 

‘Some buildings as far as 2km are partially collapsed. It’s like a war zone. The damage is extreme. Not one glass window intact.’ 

A soldier at the port, where relatives of the missing scrambled for news of their loved ones, said: ‘It’s a catastrophe inside. There are corpses on the ground. Ambulances are still lifting the dead.’

A woman in her twenties stood screaming at security forces, asking about the fate of her brother, a port employee.

‘His name is Jad, his eyes are green,’ she pleaded, to no avail as officers refused her entry.

‘It was like an atomic bomb,’ said Makrouhie Yerganian, a retired schoolteacher in her mid-70s who has lived near the port for decades.

‘I’ve experienced everything, but nothing like this before,’ even during the country’s 1975-1990 civil war, she said.

‘All the buildings around here have collapsed.’  

One witness said: ‘I saw a fireball and smoke billowing over Beirut. People were screaming and running, bleeding. 

‘Balconies were blown off buildings. Glass in high-rise buildings shattered and fell to the street.’ 

Rami Rifai, a 38-year-old engineer,from a hospital where his two daughters were receiving treatment after sustaining cuts despite being half a kilometre from the seat of the blast said: ‘We’ve had some dark days in Lebanon over the years but this is something else.

‘We already had the economic crisis, a government of thieves and coronavirus. I didn’t think it could get worse but now I don’t know if this country can get up again. Everyone is going to try to leave. I will try to leave,’ he said, his voice choked by tears. 

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Footage shows a thick column of smoke rising from the port before an explosion sends a fireball into the sky

A general view of the harbor area with smoke billowing from an area of a large explosion, with damage and debris after a large explosion rocked the harbor area of Beirut

A general view of the harbor area with smoke billowing from an area of a large explosion, with damage and debris after a large explosion rocked the harbor area of Beirut

A general view of the harbor area with smoke billowing from an area of a large explosion, with damage and debris after a large explosion rocked the harbor area of Beirut

The scene of the explosion that devastated the capital of Beirut last night. Rescuers worked throughout the night to look for survivors

The scene of the explosion that devastated the capital of Beirut last night. Rescuers worked throughout the night to look for survivors

The scene of the explosion that devastated the capital of Beirut last night. Rescuers worked throughout the night to look for survivors

People inspect a damaged petrol station near the scene of an explosion. Destroyed vehicles can also be seen and the nearby buildings all have shattered windows

People inspect a damaged petrol station near the scene of an explosion. Destroyed vehicles can also be seen and the nearby buildings all have shattered windows

People inspect a damaged petrol station near the scene of an explosion. Destroyed vehicles can also be seen and the nearby buildings all have shattered windows

The explosion has ripped a huge hole in the middle of this building as a man inspects the damage at the front

The explosion has ripped a huge hole in the middle of this building as a man inspects the damage at the front

The explosion has ripped a huge hole in the middle of this building as a man inspects the damage at the front

Lebanese firefighters work at the scene of explosion at the Beirut Port, Beirut following the huge explosion yesterday evening

Lebanese firefighters work at the scene of explosion at the Beirut Port, Beirut following the huge explosion yesterday evening

Lebanese firefighters work at the scene of explosion at the Beirut Port, Beirut following the huge explosion yesterday evening 

An injured man covered in blood is seen in Beirut following the explosion in Beirut on Tuesday

An injured man covered in blood is seen in Beirut following the explosion in Beirut on Tuesday

An injured man covered in blood is seen in Beirut following the explosion in Beirut on Tuesday

A man reacts at the scene of an explosion at the port in Lebanon's capital Beirut on August 4

A man reacts at the scene of an explosion at the port in Lebanon's capital Beirut on August 4

A man reacts at the scene of an explosion at the port in Lebanon’s capital Beirut on August 4

Glass is shattered by the explosion at the Cavalier Hotel in Beirut following the explosion

Glass is shattered by the explosion at the Cavalier Hotel in Beirut following the explosion

Glass is shattered by the explosion at the Cavalier Hotel in Beirut following the explosion 

Ammonium nitrate – the terrorist’s bomb ingredient 

Ammonium nitrate – identified as the cause of the deadly explosion in Beirut – is an odourless crystalline substance used as a fertilizer that has been behind many industrial explosions and terrorist attacks over the decades. 

Two tonnes of it was used to create the bomb in the 1995 Oklahoma City attack that destroyed a federal building, leaving 168 people dead, and it has been widely used by the Taliban in improvised devices.

Experts say a fire in Beirut started after a spark from a welder likely ignited the highly reactive chemical, causing a blast the equivalent to three million kilotons of TNT, killing at least 100 people and leaving thousands more injured.

There were 2,750 tonnes of the hazardous chemical held in the warehouse at the time of the explosion – which measured as the equivalent of a 3.5 earthquake. 

Death and injury from the explosion would have come in a number of phases, according to Dr David Caldicott from the Australian National University. 

‘Primary injuries are blast-related, as a consequence of the overpressure wave interacting with the hollow space in victims; lung injuries are often survived, but subsequently fatal, and bowel injuries are common.

‘Secondary injuries are caused by flying debris; effectively environmental shrapnel.

‘Tertiary injuries are as a consequence of being thrown by the blast, and quaternary injuries by other features such as inhalation.’ 

When combined with fuel oils, ammonium nitrate creates a potent explosive widely used in the construction industry, but also by insurgent groups to create bombs.

As well as the Oklahoma City bomb in the US, it has been used in a number of IRA attacks on the UK. 

These include the Bishopsgate attack in April 1993 that left 40 injured and a 40ft wide crater, and a 3,300lb bomb in Manchester in June 1996 that left 2000 injured but no deaths due to a phone warning an hour before the blast. 

In agriculture, ammonium nitrate fertiliser is applied in granule form and quickly dissolves under moisture, allowing nitrogen to be released into the soil.

However, under normal storage conditions and without very high heat, it is difficult to ignite ammonium nitrate, Jimmie Oxley, a chemistry professor at the University of Rhode Island, said.

‘If you look at the video (of the Beirut explosion), you saw the black smoke, you saw the red smoke – that was an incomplete reaction,’ she said.

‘I am assuming that there was a small explosion that instigated the reaction of the ammonium nitrate – whether that small explosion was an accident or something on purpose I haven’t heard yet.’

That’s because ammonium nitrate is an oxidiser – it intensifies combustion and allows other substances to ignite more readily, but is not itself very combustible.

For these reasons, there are generally very strict rules about where it can be stored: for example, it must be kept away from fuels and sources of heat.

In fact, many countries in the European Union require that calcium carbonate to be added to ammonium nitrate to create calcium ammonium nitrate, which is safer.

In the United States, regulations were tightened significantly after the Oklahoma City attack, with inspections required if more than 2,000lbs of it are stored in one place.  

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One resident of Mar Mikhail, one of the most affected neighbourhoods, said she saw bodies strewn in the middle of the street, apparently thrown off balconies and rooftops by the blast.

For a long time after the blast, ambulance sirens sounded across the city and helicopters hovered above.

Residents said glass was broken in houses from Raouche, on the Mediterranean city’s western tip, to Rabieh 10 km (6 miles) east).

And in Cyprus, a Mediterranean island lying 110 miles (180 km) northwest of Beirut, residents reported hearing two large bangs in quick succession.

One resident of the capital Nicosia said his house shook, rattling shutters.

‘We do not have information about what has happened precisely, what has caused this, whether its accidental or manmade act,’ he said.

Condolences poured in from across the world with Gulf nations, the United States and even Lebanon’s arch foe Israel offering to send aid. France also promised to send assistance.

The blast revived memories of a 1975-90 civil war and its aftermath, when Lebanese endured heavy shelling, car bombings and Israeli air raids. Some residents thought an earthquake had struck.

‘The blast blew me off metres away. I was in a daze and was all covered in blood. It brought back the vision of another explosion I witnessed against the U.S. embassy in 1983,’ said Huda Baroudi, a Beirut designer. 

UN chief Antonio Guterres expressed his ‘deepest condolences … following the horrific explosions in Beirut’ which he said had also injured some United Nations personnel. 

Boris Johnson offered to help the crisis-hit country, tweeting: ‘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.’ 

The UK Foreign Office has said a few of its embassy staff sustained non-life threatening injuries in the blast. 

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said in a tweet: ‘The images of explosions in Beirut are deeply worrying. Our thoughts are with those affected, the emergency services and the people of Lebanon.’ 

Offers of aid also came from bitter rivals Israel, with which it is still technically at war. 

Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, on behalf of the State of Israel, have offered the Lebanese government – via international intermediaries – medical and humanitarian aid, as well as immediate emergency assistance,’ said a joint statement from the two ministries. 

Last week, Israel accused the Lebanese group Hezbollah of trying to send gunmen across the UN-demarcated Blue Line and said it held the Lebanese government responsible for what it termed an attempted ‘terrorist’ attack. 

Hezbollah said all of the country’s political powers must unite to overcome the ‘painful catastrophe’. 

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that France stood ‘alongside Lebanon’ and was ready to help, tweeting: ‘France stands and will always stand by the side of Lebanon and the Lebanese. It is ready to provide assistance according to the needs expressed by the Lebanese authorities. 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted: ‘We are monitoring and stand ready to assist the people of Lebanon as they recover from this horrible tragedy.’

Iran’s foreign minister has said it is standing by to help Lebanon recover from the fallout of the explosion.

Countries in the Gulf paid tribute to victims of the explosion as Qatar said it would send field hospitals to support Lebanon’s medical response.

Qatar’s ruler Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani called President Michel Aoun to offer condolences, according to the state-run Qatar News Agency.

Sheikh Tamim wished ‘a speedy recovery for the injured,’ adding that he ‘expressed Qatar’s solidarity with brotherly Lebanon and its willingness to provide all kinds of assistance’. 

Elsewhere in the Gulf, the United Arab Emirates’ Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted that ‘our hearts are with Beirut and its people’.

He posted the tribute alongside an image of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, illuminated in the colours of the Lebanese flag.

‘Our prayers during these difficult hours are that God… protects brotherly Lebanon and the Lebanese to reduce their affliction and heal their wounds,’ he wrote. 

Pictures shows the scene of an explosion at the port in the Lebanese capital Beirut, which lay waste to surrounding buildings

Pictures shows the scene of an explosion at the port in the Lebanese capital Beirut, which lay waste to surrounding buildings

Pictures shows the scene of an explosion at the port in the Lebanese capital Beirut, which lay waste to surrounding buildings

Smoke billows from harbor area with damage and debris after a large explosion rocked the harbor of Beirut

Smoke billows from harbor area with damage and debris after a large explosion rocked the harbor of Beirut

Smoke billows from harbor area with damage and debris after a large explosion rocked the harbor of Beirut

Gulf countries including Qatar and the UAE maintain close ties with Beirut and have long provided financial aid and diplomatic assistance to mediate Lebanon’s political and sectarian divisions.

Bahrain’s foreign ministry urged its nationals in Lebanon to contact the ministry’s operations centre or Manama’s representative in Beirut, while Kuwait ordered its citizens to take extreme caution and stay indoors. 

It comes just days before a United Nations tribunal is set to rule on the assassination of the country’s former PM Rafik Hariri.

The house of his son, Saad Hariri, who also led the country, was damaged by the blast but he was confirmed safe.

Save the Children said in a statement that members of their team on the ground in the city have reported entire streets destroyed and children unaccounted for.

Despite the charity’s offices in the city being badly damaged, they have pledged that a rapid response team is ready to offer support.

Jad Sakr, Save the Children’s country director in Lebanon, said: ‘We are shocked and devastated by the explosion today.

‘The death toll may not be known for several days but we do know is that in a disaster like this, children may be hurt, shocked and separated from their parents.

‘Our child protection teams are ready to support the government’s efforts, which will almost certainly go on for several days to come.

‘It is vital that children and their families get access to the services they urgently need, including medical care and physical and emotional protection.’

He added: ‘The incident could not have occurred at a worst time and has hit communities who were already suffering from the impact of the Covid-19 crisis and the economic deterioration.

‘Beirut’s main port, now completely damaged, is vital for much of the food, grains and fuel that Lebanon imports, and families will immediately feel the shortage in basic needs as a result of this tragedy.’

Israel among the countries to offer bomb-struck Beirut humanitarian aid 

In a televised message this evening, Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab called on all ‘friendly and brotherly countries to stand by Lebanon’, hours after the bomb blast which tore through downtown Beirut, killing dozens, wounding thousands, and destroying countless buildings in the city centre. 

Among those to answer the call were Iran, Britain and France. 

Israel, whom Lebanon is still technically at war with, also offered their support. 

‘Following the explosion in Beirut, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, on behalf of the State of Israel, have offered the Lebanese government – via international intermediaries – medical and humanitarian aid, as well as immediate emergency assistance,’ said a joint statement from the two ministries.

The offer comes after two weeks of heightened tensions between the rival neighbours, with a series of border clashes between the Israeli Defence Forces and Hezbollah on Israel’s northern frontier. 

Israel accused the Lebanese group Hezbollah of trying to send gunmen across the UN-demarcated Blue Line and said it held the Lebanese government responsible for what it termed an attempted ‘terrorist’ attack.

Hezbollah and Israel last fought a 33-day war in the summer of 2006.  

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Israel denies any involvement in Beirut port blast that comes amid rising tensions in between Lebanon and its neighbour

by WILL COLE for MailOnline 

Israel has denied having anything to do with the huge explosion in Beirut, adding that the country was ready to give humanitarian and medical assistance to Lebanon.

The huge explosion in port warehouses near the city centre as killed more than 100 people, injured over 4,000 and sent shockwaves that shattered windows, smashed masonry and shook the ground. 

Lebanon’s interior minister said initial information indicated highly explosive material, seized years ago, that had been stored at the port had blown up. Israel, which has fought several wars with Lebanon, denied any role.

‘Israel has approached Lebanon through international security and diplomatic channels and has offered the Lebanese government medical and humanitarian assistance,’ a written statement from Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said.  

The offer comes after two weeks of heightened tensions between the rival neighbours, which involved a series of border clashes between the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and Hezbollah on Israel’s northern frontier. 

Earlier this month, Israel accused Hezbollah of trying to send gunmen across the UN-demarcated Blue Line and said it held the Lebanese government responsible for what it termed an attempted ‘terrorist’ attack. 

There have been numerous similar border spats in recent years but the most recent full-scale conflict broke out between the two sides in 2006 after Hezbollah killed eight Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two, sparking the 34-day Israel-Lebanon war. 

Hezbollah launched rockets at its southern neighbour and Israel returned fire, bombing Lebanese towns, villages and key infrastructure targets. 

The conflict ended inconclusively and the two sides are still, technically, at war. Lebanon is one of 31 UN member states that does not recognise Israel’s existence as a state.  

International aid in the form of emergency workers and medical personnel is already on its way to Lebanon. 

France says it is sending two planes with dozens of emergency workers, a mobile medical unit and 15 tons of aid. French President Emmanuel Macron’s office says the aid should allow for the treatment of some 500 victims.

French peacekeepers stationed in Lebanon, a former French protectorate, have been helping since the explosions, Macron’s office said.

Jordan says a military field hospital including all necessary personnel will be dispatched, according to the Royal Court. Egypt has opened a field hospital in Beirut to receive the wounded.

Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamacek says Lebanon has accepted an offer to send a team of 37 rescuers with sniffer dogs to Beirut. Denmark says it is ready to provide humanitarian assistance to Lebanon, and Greece says it is ready to help Lebanese authorities ‘with all means at its disposal.’ 

Prime Minister Hassan Diab, in a short televised speech, has appealed to all countries and friends of Lebanon to extend help to the small nation, saying: ‘We are witnessing a real catastrophe.’ He reiterated his pledge that those responsible for the massive explosion at Beirut’s port will pay the price, without commenting on the cause.

Diab’s speech came the morning after the blast killed at least 100 people and wounded thousands.

Smoke was still rising from the port Wednesday morning. Major downtown streets were littered with debris and damaged vehicles, and building facades were blown out.

Lebanese Red Cross official George Kettaneh said at least 100 people were killed and more than 4,000 were wounded, and said the toll could rise further. 

After yesterday’s explosion, Shi’ite Iran, the main backer of militant political party Hezbollah, also offered support, as did Tehran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia, a leading Sunni power. 

‘What we are witnessing is a huge catastrophe,’ the head of Lebanon’s Red Cross George Kettani told broadcaster Mayadeen. ‘There are victims and casualties everywhere.’

Hours after the blast, which struck shortly after 6 p.m. (1500 GMT), a fire still blazed in the port district, casting an orange glow across the night sky as helicopters hovered and ambulance sirens sounded across the capital.

A security source said victims were taken for treatment outside the city because Beirut hospitals were packed with wounded. Ambulances from the north and south of the country and the Bekaa valley to the east were called in to help.

The blast was so big that some residents in the city, where memories of heavy shelling during the 1975 to 1990 civil war live on, thought an earthquake had struck. Dazed, weeping and wounded people walked through streets searching for relatives.

Explosion rocks Lebanon during time of deep economic turmoil 

The explosion comes amid political tension in Lebanon, with street demonstrations against the government’s handling the worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

Late last year investigators revealed what was effectively a state-sponsored pyramid scheme being run by the central bank, which was borrowing from commercial banks at above-market interest rates to pay back its debts and maintain the Lebanese pound’s fixed exchange rate with the US dollar.

In January mass protests against the corruption allegations and a faltering economy led to the fall of Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government.

His predecessor , Independent Hassan Diab, cut the country’s budget by $700million and put in place a financial rescue plan a month later.

But Lebanon’s problems have persisted after the Covid-19 pandemic forced global border closures, and protests have returned after the Lebanese pound fell in value, despite a lockdown being imposed in March.

Many businesses have been forced to close, but as prices continue to rise with a devalued currency some are struggling to buy basic necessities, and the prime minister warned that Lebanon was at risk of a ‘major food crisis’.

Analysts suggest the crisis has been prolonged because of political sectarianism, with the president, prime minister and speaker split between the three largest cultural groups; Christians; Shia Muslim; and Sunni Muslims.

Parliament is also drawn down the middle between Christian and Muslim members.

With the country’s governance in need of unity between the competing groups, external powers have been able to interfere in the country. Iran, for instance, backs the militant Hezbollah Shia movement

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‘I promise you that this catastrophe will not pass without accountability,’ Prime Minister Hassan Diab told the nation.

‘Those responsible will pay the price,’ he said in his televised address, adding that details about the ‘dangerous warehouse’ would be made public.

The interior minister told Al Jadeed TV that ammonium nitrate had been stored at the port since 2014.

The U.S. embassy in Beirut warned residents in the city about reports of toxic gases released by the blast, urging people to stay indoors and wear masks if available. 

Footage of the explosion shared by residents on social media showed a column of smoke rising from the port followed by an enormous blast, sending up a white cloud and a fireball into the sky. Those filming the incident from high buildings 2 km (one mile) from the port were thrown backwards by the shock.

It was not immediately clear what caused the initial blaze on Tuesday that set off the blast.

Lebanon’s health minister said more than 50 people had been killed and more than 2,750 injured. Lebanon’s Red Cross said hundreds of people had been taken to hospitals.

The governor of Beirut port told Sky News a team of firefighters, who were battling the initial blaze, had ‘disappeared’ after the explosion.

President Michel Aoun called for an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday and said a two-week state of emergency should be declared. He said it was ‘unacceptable’ that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate were stored for six years without safety measures.

The prime minister called for a day of mourning. 

The explosion occurred three days before a U.N.-backed court is due to deliver a verdict in the trial of four suspects from the Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah over a 2005 bombing which killed former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and 21 others.

Hariri was killed by a huge truck bomb on the same waterfront, about 2 km (about one mile) from the port. 

Western countries including the United States, Britain and France also said they were ready to assist.

Images showed port buildings reduced to tangled masonry, devastating the main entry point to a country that relies on food imports to feed its population of more than 6 million.

It threatens a new humanitarian crisis in a nation that hosts hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and which is already grappling with economic meltdown under one of the world’s biggest debt burdens.

Residents said glass was broken in neighbourhoods on Beirut’s Mediterranean coast and inland suburbs several kms (miles) away. In Cyprus, a Mediterranean island 110 miles (180 km) across the sea from Beirut, residents heard the blast. One resident in Nicosia said his house and window shutters shook.

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Get ready for FRY-DAY! Britain faces muggy 82F day tomorrow before 96F frazzling on Friday

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get ready for fry day britain faces muggy 82f day tomorrow before 96f frazzling on friday

Temperatures are set to soar by the end of the week as the mercury reaches a balmy 96F (36C) on Friday – ahead of a week-long roast and a risk of heavy thunderstorms next week.

Brits are expected to enjoy highs of 82F (28C) tomorrow before temperatures rise dramatically closer to the weekend.

Marco Petagna, a Met Office forecaster, told MailOnline: ‘Most areas will be seeing sunny spells and then starting to see temperatures climbing as the warmer air is imported from the continent.’

Temperatures are expected to reach the high 90s in parts of the UK when hot weather moves over from Europe on Friday, but Mr Petagna warned it would not be ‘wall to wall good weather’.

‘Northern Ireland and western Scotland could see heavy rain and thunder,’ he added. ‘England and Wales will be generally dry. The best of the weather will be across central and south eastern England while Wales will be widely high 70s. 

‘In the southeast it could be 96F (36C). Last Friday we got to 100F (37.8C) but this week 96F (36C) is the most likely. There is a chance it could be higher but it depends on whether there is patchy cloud.’

A boy jumps from a wall into the sea on August 5 in Hastings. Warm weather has returned to parts of the UK with temperatures forecast to rise towards the weekend

A boy jumps from a wall into the sea on August 5 in Hastings. Warm weather has returned to parts of the UK with temperatures forecast to rise towards the weekend

A boy jumps from a wall into the sea on August 5 in Hastings. Warm weather has returned to parts of the UK with temperatures forecast to rise towards the weekend

Children play in the sea as a fishing boat returns from an overnight catch today in Hastings. Brits are expected to enjoy highs of 82F (28C) tomorrow before temperatures rise dramatically closer to the weekend

Children play in the sea as a fishing boat returns from an overnight catch today in Hastings. Brits are expected to enjoy highs of 82F (28C) tomorrow before temperatures rise dramatically closer to the weekend

Children play in the sea as a fishing boat returns from an overnight catch today in Hastings. Brits are expected to enjoy highs of 82F (28C) tomorrow before temperatures rise dramatically closer to the weekend

Youngsters jump into the sea from a break wall today in Hastings as they enjoy blue skies and sunshine. Temperatures are expected to reach the high 90s in parts of the UK on Friday

Youngsters jump into the sea from a break wall today in Hastings as they enjoy blue skies and sunshine. Temperatures are expected to reach the high 90s in parts of the UK on Friday

Youngsters jump into the sea from a break wall today in Hastings as they enjoy blue skies and sunshine. Temperatures are expected to reach the high 90s in parts of the UK on Friday

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The highest temperature reached so far this year was 100F (37.8C), recorded at Heathrow on Friday, July 31. 

The warm weather will continue into the weekend with Kent seeing highs of 95F (35C) and London enjoying the low 80s on Saturday.

Casablanca, in Morocco, is due to see highs of 81F (27C) on Friday, by comparison. While Lisbon has seen recent hot weather, it is expected to have peaked by the weekend with temperatures around 86F (30C).

‘Most areas into the weekend look fine, a bit fresher but even then the southeast holds onto high temperatures,’ Mr Petagna added.

‘Maximum temperatures for Sunday is 86F (30C) in the southeast. The weekend does look mostly dry with lots of sunshine around and heat lingering across the southeast.’

But the hot weather is set to abruptly end with a high risk of thunderstorms into next week, according to deputy chief meteorologist, David Oliver.

He said the high temperatures would trigger thunderstorms across the UK, but details over exactly where these were likely to form was still unknown.

Boaters in the River Thames enjoy the warm afternoon air in Lower Basildon, Berkshire today. Marco Petagna, a Met Office forecaster, told MailOnline Friday could see highs of 96F (36C)

Boaters in the River Thames enjoy the warm afternoon air in Lower Basildon, Berkshire today. Marco Petagna, a Met Office forecaster, told MailOnline Friday could see highs of 96F (36C)

Boaters in the River Thames enjoy the warm afternoon air in Lower Basildon, Berkshire today. Marco Petagna, a Met Office forecaster, told MailOnline Friday could see highs of 96F (36C)

Families sit between fishing boats in Hastings. The warm weather will continue into the weekend with Kent seeing highs of 95F (35C) and London enjoying the low 80s on Saturday

Families sit between fishing boats in Hastings. The warm weather will continue into the weekend with Kent seeing highs of 95F (35C) and London enjoying the low 80s on Saturday

Families sit between fishing boats in Hastings. The warm weather will continue into the weekend with Kent seeing highs of 95F (35C) and London enjoying the low 80s on Saturday

A man relaxes on the beach in Hastings as others enjoy a dip in the sea. Casablanca, in Morocco, is due to see highs of 81F (27C) on Friday, by comparison

A man relaxes on the beach in Hastings as others enjoy a dip in the sea. Casablanca, in Morocco, is due to see highs of 81F (27C) on Friday, by comparison

A man relaxes on the beach in Hastings as others enjoy a dip in the sea. Casablanca, in Morocco, is due to see highs of 81F (27C) on Friday, by comparison

A farmer mows the meadows in Lower Basildon

A farmer mows the meadows in Lower Basildon

A farmer kicks up the dust whilst mowing the long grass in the meadows in Lower Basildon, Berkshire

A farmer kicks up the dust whilst mowing the long grass in the meadows in Lower Basildon, Berkshire

A farmer kicks up the dust whilst mowing the long grass in the meadows in Lower Basildon, Berkshire. The hot weather is set to abruptly end with a high risk of thunderstorms into next week, according to deputy chief meteorologist, David Oliver

‘Through the weekend there will be plenty of dry and sunny weather for most,’ he added. ‘The high temperatures could trigger some thunderstorms across parts of the UK by the beginning of next week.’

Chief met office meteorologist Dan Suri confirmed a heatwave was set to hit Britain on Friday and Saturday. He said: ‘Saturday will likely be another hot day for southern and central parts of the UK, with heatwave conditions possibly being met in parts of southeast England and East Anglia.’

It comes after a YouGov poll found 28 per cent of Britons plan to take a holiday in the UK this year – the equivalent of about 19million people – while only nine per cent will go abroad and a further 49 per cent do not intend on holidaying at all. 

A MetDesk graphic shows the heat coming over from the continent to cause a heatwave in south east England this week

A MetDesk graphic shows the heat coming over from the continent to cause a heatwave in south east England this week

A MetDesk graphic shows the heat coming over from the continent to cause a heatwave in south east England this week

Families relaxed as children played on the beach amid high temperatures in Hastings today. High temperatures are expected to trigger thunderstorms across the UK next week, but details over exactly where these are likely to form are still unknown

Families relaxed as children played on the beach amid high temperatures in Hastings today. High temperatures are expected to trigger thunderstorms across the UK next week, but details over exactly where these are likely to form are still unknown

Families relaxed as children played on the beach amid high temperatures in Hastings today. High temperatures are expected to trigger thunderstorms across the UK next week, but details over exactly where these are likely to form are still unknown

A woman sits next to a pipe on an empty beach in Hastings. Beleaguered Cornish residents reported over the weekend how the popular county had turned into 'Benidorm on steroids' as floods of visitors left them too scared to leave their homes

A woman sits next to a pipe on an empty beach in Hastings. Beleaguered Cornish residents reported over the weekend how the popular county had turned into 'Benidorm on steroids' as floods of visitors left them too scared to leave their homes

A woman sits next to a pipe on an empty beach in Hastings. Beleaguered Cornish residents reported over the weekend how the popular county had turned into ‘Benidorm on steroids’ as floods of visitors left them too scared to leave their homes

A man dredges a lake clearing it of reeds on a warm day in the countryside in Lower Basildon, Berkshire. The warm weather is set to continue over this week

A man dredges a lake clearing it of reeds on a warm day in the countryside in Lower Basildon, Berkshire. The warm weather is set to continue over this week

A man dredges a lake clearing it of reeds on a warm day in the countryside in Lower Basildon, Berkshire. The warm weather is set to continue over this week

It comes after a drunken fight broke out on the seafront in Brighton on Saturday night as two women went toe-to-toe and others cheered and ignored social distancing

It comes after a drunken fight broke out on the seafront in Brighton on Saturday night as two women went toe-to-toe and others cheered and ignored social distancing

It comes after a drunken fight broke out on the seafront in Brighton on Saturday night as two women went toe-to-toe and others cheered and ignored social distancing 

And the warm weather will concern local authorities in areas such as Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Sussex which can expect another huge influx of holidaymakers as people in the UK shun foreign trips to go on staycations.

Beleaguered Cornish residents reported over the weekend how the popular county had turned into ‘Benidorm on steroids’ as floods of visitors left them too scared to leave their homes.

Meanwhile Thanet District Council in Kent begged people to avoid four of the area’s beaches – including the popular Margate’s Main Sands – due to the number of visitors.

And a drunken fight broke out on the seafront in Brighton on Saturday night as two women went toe-to-toe and others cheered and ignored social distancing.  

Over the weekend, street marshals were deployed in Cornwall as tourists poured down narrow streets and flouted social-distancing rules – despite clear warning signs in place. 

Cornwall Council slammed the ‘ignorant’ visitors who descended on beauty spots without their face masks, as Britons elsewhere appeared to ignore social distancing rules while gathering at bars.             

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uk offers aid to lebanon as rigorous probe promised

Dominic Raab has pledged £5million of international aid to help Lebanon in the aftermath of Beirut’s devastating explosion which has killed at least 135.

The Foreign Secretary spoke to Lebanon’s prime minister Hassan Diab today to set out what support the UK could offer the country which has been plunged into a state of emergency.  

Britain’s aid package will also include expert assistance and the potential for a Royal Navy survey ship to help assess the damage caused to the port. 

Mr Raab said the Lebanese prime minister told him there would be a ‘full, thorough and rigorous investigation to get to the truth – I think the people of the Lebanon deserve no less – and that there will be full accountability’.

The Government has said all embassy staff based in Beirut are accounted for, but some have suffered ‘non-life-threatening injuries’.

Lebanon has begun the daunting task of trying to clean up its capital Beirut after a devastating explosion tore apart the city's port (pictured) and caused damage across the city after several tons of explosive chemicals ignited

Lebanon has begun the daunting task of trying to clean up its capital Beirut after a devastating explosion tore apart the city's port (pictured) and caused damage across the city after several tons of explosive chemicals ignited

Lebanon has begun the daunting task of trying to clean up its capital Beirut after a devastating explosion tore apart the city’s port (pictured) and caused damage across the city after several tons of explosive chemicals ignited

Dominic Raab has pledged £5million of international aid to help Lebanon in the aftermath of Beirut's devastating explosion which has killed at least 135

Dominic Raab has pledged £5million of international aid to help Lebanon in the aftermath of Beirut's devastating explosion which has killed at least 135

Dominic Raab has pledged £5million of international aid to help Lebanon in the aftermath of Beirut’s devastating explosion which has killed at least 135

Mr Raab said the details of Britons caught up in the Beirut blast were still being established.

‘We are not sure on the precise figures in relation to UK nationals there, we will obviously want to bottom out that in the days ahead,’ the Foreign Secretary said.

‘Obviously we have a consular team there which are monitoring that very carefully.’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the UK must offer Lebanon ‘full support’ to deal with the crisis, with the Government yet to set out its response.

The British Red Cross has launched an emergency appeal for Britons to support the relief effort.

More than a dozen countries have made offers of humanitarian aid and assistance following an appeal by Prime Minister Hassan Diab in a short televised speech

Mr Diab called on friends of Lebanon to extend help to the small nation, saying: ‘We are witnessing a real catastrophe.’ 

France, Russia and Greece announced plans to send planeloads of medical aid to Lebanon, where Jordan and Egypt have set up field hospitals to help prevent hospitals being overcome with the number of injured turning up.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are participating in a blood donation drive in partnership with the Red Cross to help wounded victims.

Lebanese officials have called Beirut ‘disaster city’ and 135 have been declared dead, 5,000 wounded and dozens missing. 

The Lebanese government has put an unspecified number of Beirut port officials under house arrest pending an investigation into how 2,750 tonnes of explosive ammonium nitrate came to be stored at the port for years.

A helicopter flies above the port which has been destroyed by the explosion yesterday that has left thousands of people destitute

A helicopter flies above the port which has been destroyed by the explosion yesterday that has left thousands of people destitute

A helicopter flies above the port which has been destroyed by the explosion yesterday that has left thousands of people destitute

Dramatic footage on social media shows people screaming as an enormous blast rocks the waterside area of Lebanon's capital city

Dramatic footage on social media shows people screaming as an enormous blast rocks the waterside area of Lebanon's capital city

Dramatic footage shows smoke billowing from the port area shortly before an enormous fireball explodes into the sky and blankets the city in a thick mushroom cloud

Dramatic footage shows smoke billowing from the port area shortly before an enormous fireball explodes into the sky and blankets the city in a thick mushroom cloud

A warehouse fire sparked by a welder set light to 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that was being stored at the city’s port, causing an explosion with force roughly equal to a fifth of the atomic bomb which levelled Hiroshima

Mr Aoun said the blast stemmed from the ammonium nitrate being stored unsafely in a warehouse, amid suggestions the material was confiscated from a ship in 2013.

As many as 300,000 people may have been left homeless, Beirut’s governor Marwan Aboud said, with many buildings reduced to an uninhabitable mess of rubble and glass.

Senior Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat said the Royal Navy should be sent to help reopen the port to get food, fuel and medical supplies in.

‘Beirut has been a haven of tranquillity in a very troubled region for many hundreds of years,’ the chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said.

‘To find it now in such a rocky road is extremely worrying for all of us.’

The Queen’s message to Mr Aoun said: ‘Prince Philip and I were deeply saddened by news of the explosion at the port in Beirut yesterday.

‘Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those who have been injured or lost their lives, and all those whose homes and livelihoods have been affected.’

Destruction laid bare: Aerial photos show the gutted frames of the warehouses in Beirut's port following the massive explosion yesterday

Destruction laid bare: Aerial photos show the gutted frames of the warehouses in Beirut's port following the massive explosion yesterday

Destruction laid bare: Aerial photos show the gutted frames of the warehouses in Beirut’s port following the massive explosion yesterday

French President Emmanuel Macron is to fly to Beirut, while his nation has dispatched two planeloads of rescue workers and aid. Turkey is also sending rescue teams and emergency medical personnel.

There are concerns of food shortages and unrest in the city, with the blast compounding anger stemming from a severe economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic.

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

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘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.’

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