At least 10 people have been killed in a huge explosion in the Lebanese capital Beirut, officials have said.
The country’s health minister Hamad Hasan also told local news station LBC that there are a “high number of injuries” and the blast had caused extensive damage.
Footage posted on social media revealed the moment a building several storeys high exploded, sending a vast shockwave across the city.
Pictures also showed a scene of devastation with cars upturned and emergency crews in operation in a large area around the gutted building.
The explosion appeared to be centred around the city’s port area containing warehouses and rippled through several areas of the capital.
Witnesses said a number of people were injured during the widespread destruction across the city, with residents reporting ceilings collapsing and windows shattering.
Local media reported that a huge column of smoke was seen rising over the city.
Wounded people were seen on the ground near Beirut’s port, according to a photographer at the scene.
Firecrackers are stored in the area where the blast occurred, local TV reported.
The cause of the blast was not immediately clear.
Sky News’s Middle East editor Zein Ja’far, who was in downtown Beirut at the time of the explosion on Tuesday afternoon, said the “huge explosion” caused windows to “cave in”.
“It tore apart the facade of the building we’re in, and once the dust settled we managed to get ourselves and others in this block outside,” he said.
“It was really quite a worrying sight”.
“The sounds of sirens of the fire brigade, ambulances, the police and also the military has been pretty incessant for the last 45 minutes and a huge number of emergency services and security forces are rushing to that area now,” he said.
“A lot of very dazed, very bloodied people are walking around trying to gather their bearings.”
One local, named Fady Roumieh, was stood in a car park of a shopping centre around 2km 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.”
The explosion comes as Lebanon experiences its worst economic and financial crisis in decades.
It also comes amid rising tensions between Israel and the militant Hezbollah group along Lebanon’s southern border.
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