At least 27 people have been killed and more than 2,500 injured after a massive explosion near Beirut’s port Tuesday, according to Lebanese Health Minister Hamad Hassan.
The death toll in the Lebanese capital isn’t known yet, but hospitals are already full as workers dig frantically in the rubble, where bodies are still buried.
While the direct cause of the blast is not yet known, Lebanon’s state-run NNA news reports that a major fire broke out near the port inside a warehouse used for storing fireworks before the explosions occurred.
However, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, of the General Security Directorate, a Lebanese intelligence agency, said the blast happened in an area housing highly explosive materials.
Hospitals are said to be overwhelmed and many buildings have been destroyed.
Witnesses said a number of people were injured during the widespread destruction across the city, with residents reporting collapsed ceilings and shattered windows.
A huge column of smoke was seen rising over the city following the explosion.
One local, named Fady Roumieh, was stood in a car park of a shopping centre around 2km (1.2 miles) east of the blast.
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.”
Local media reported one hospital has declared it cannot take any more patients and is appealing for blood donations.