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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. 

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.

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.  

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.’

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. 

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