Beirut explosion: Britons 'caught in aftermath' of huge blast that killed at least 100 people

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·4-min read

A number of British nationals are believed to be among those caught up in the aftermath of the huge blast that rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Tuesday.

The explosion killed at least 100 people and injured more than 4,000 others, while more than 100 people are believed to be missing.

Boris Johnson said the UK government is "ready to provide support in any way we can", while the Foreign Office said it is "monitoring the situation closely".

A drone picture shows the scene of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. A massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the city's port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
A drone picture shows the scene of the explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon. (AP)
This photo shows a general view of the scene of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. A massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the city's port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Smoke rises above the devastation caused by the explosion in Beirut. (AP)
This photo shows a general view of the scene of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. The massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the city's port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Buildings in Beirut lie in ruins following the huge blast on Tuesday. (AP)

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

According to a report that was shared following the explosion, the ammonium nitrate was on board a vessel that entered the Beirut port in September 2013 before being moved into warehouses the following month – where it has remained ever since.

Economic crisis

The blast destroyed numerous apartment buildings, potentially leaving large numbers of people homeless at a time when many Lebanese have lost their jobs and seen their savings evaporate because of a currency crisis.

Estimates suggest some 85% of the country's grain was stored at the now-destroyed silos.

Lebanon's state-run National News Agency quoted the Raoul Nehme, the minister of economy and trade, as saying all the wheat stored at the facility had been "contaminated" and could not be used.

People inspect their damaged cars after a massive explosion on Tuesday, in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. The explosion flattened much of a port and damaged buildings across Beirut, sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. In addition to those who died, more than 3,000 other people were injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
People inspect their damaged cars after the massive explosion in Beirut. (AP)
Men on a scooter pass cars and buildings that were damaged after a massive explosion on Tuesday, in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. The explosion flattened much of a port and damaged buildings across Beirut, sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. In addition to those who died, more than 3,000 other people were injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Men on a scooter pass cars and buildings that were damaged after the explosion in Beirut on Tuesday. (AP)
Lebanese soldiers search for survivors after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. The explosion flattened much of a port and damaged buildings across Beirut, sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. In addition to those who died, more than 3,000 other people were injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said.(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Lebanese soldiers search for survivors among the ruins caused by the Beirut blast. (AP)

The tiny Mediterranean nation's economic crisis is rooted in decades of systemic corruption and poor governance by the political class that has ruled the country since the end of the civil war.

Lebanese citizens have held mass protests calling for sweeping political change since last autumn but few of their demands have been met as the economic situation has steadily worsened.

The coronavirus crisis – which has so far seen 65 deaths out of over 5,000 cases in Lebanon – added to the country’s woes, piling pressure on hospitals, where medical supplies reached critical levels.

A damage is seen after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. The explosion flattened much of a port and damaged buildings across Beirut, sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. In addition to those who died, more than 3,000 other people were injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said.(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Injured people walk through the damage caused by the explosion in Beirut. (AP)
A damage is seen after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. The explosion flattened much of a port and damaged buildings across Beirut, sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. In addition to those who died, more than 3,000 other people were injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said.(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Sides of buildings were completely torn away by the force of the blast in Beirut. (AP)
An army helicopter drops water at the scene of Tuesday's massive explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. Residents of Beirut awoke to a scene of utter devastation on Wednesday, a day after a massive explosion at the port sent shock waves across the Lebanese capital, killing dozens of people and wounding thousands. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
An army helicopter drops water at the scene of Tuesday's massive explosion in Beirut. (AP)

Britons in Beirut

UK schools minister Nick Gibb that all embassy staff based in Beirut are accounted for, but that some have suffered "non-life-threatening injuries”.

In a tweet on Tuesday evening, Boris Johnson said the UK is ready to provide support in any way we can, including to those British nationals affected”.

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.”

Injured stand after of a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Massive explosions rocked downtown Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital. Witnesses saw many people injured by flying glass and debris. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Injured people stand among destroyed cars and buildings after the Beirut explosion. (AP)
An aerial view shows the massive damage done to Beirut port's grain silos (C) and the area around it on August 5, 2020, one day after a mega-blast tore through the harbour in the heart of the Lebanese capital with the force of an earthquake, killing more than 100 people and injuring over 4,000. - Rescuers searched for survivors in Beirut in the morning after a cataclysmic explosion at the port sowed devastation across entire neighbourhoods, killing more than 100 people, wounding thousands and plunging Lebanon deeper into crisis. (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)
An aerial view shows the massive damage done to Beirut port's grain silos (centre) and the area around it. (AP)
In this drone picture, the destroyed silo sits in rubble and debris after an explosion at the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. The massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the city's port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
The destroyed silo sits in rubble and debris after the explosion in Beirut. (AP)
BEIRUT, Aug. 4, 2020 -- Pink smoke rises following the explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Aug. 4, 2020. The two huge explosions that rocked Lebanon's capital Beirut on Tuesday left dozens dead and injured, al-Jadeed TV channel reported. (Photo by Bilal Jawich/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/ via Getty Images)
Pink smoke rises in the immediate aftermath of the explosion in Beirut. (Getty)

Cause of blast investigated

Abbas Ibrahim, chief of Lebanese General Security, said the blast might have been caused by the ammonium nitrate stored at the port but 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," the US president told reporters in Washington.

A ship is pictured engulfed in flames at the port of Beirut following a massive explosion that hit the heart of the Lebanese capital on August 4, 2020. - Rescuers searched for survivors in Beirut on August 5 after a cataclysmic explosion at the port sowed devastation across entire neighbourhoods, killing more than 100 people, wounding thousands and plunging Lebanon deeper into crisis. (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)
A ship is engulfed in flames in Beirut following the huge explosion. (Getty)
The wreckage of a ship is seen following yesterday's blast at the port of Lebanon's capital Beirut, on August 5, 2020. - Rescuers worked through the night after two enormous explosions ripped through Beirut's port, killing at least 78 people and injuring thousands, as they wrecked buildings across the Lebanese capital. (Photo by ANWAR AMRO / AFP) (Photo by ANWAR AMRO/AFP via Getty Images)
The wreckage of a ship is seen following Tuesday's blast in Beirut. (Getty)
Aftermath of a massive explosion is seen in in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Massive explosions rocked downtown Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital. Witnesses saw many people injured by flying glass and debris. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
The explosion in Beirut flattened much of the port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors. (AP)

But schools minister Gibb said the 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.