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Massive explosion in Beirut port area rocks Lebanese capital, at least 10 reported dead

A large explosion rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut Tuesday evening local time, shattering windows in surrounding neighborhoods and wounding hundreds of people, witnesses reported. At least ten people have been killed, according to Reuters. 

Residents have posted photos and videos, which have not been independently confirmed by NBC, to social media showing a mushroom-like cloud and enormous smoke plumes rising above the city from Beirut’s port area. The cause of the explosion is not yet clear, and no one has claimed responsibility.

A second blast took place near the residence of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri. CNBC’s Hadley Gamble confirmed in a phone call with Hariri that he is unharmed. 

Lebanon’s internal security chief told press shortly after the blast that it was in a port area with “highly explosive material, not explosives,” Reuters reported. 

An Israeli government official told CNBC that “Israel had nothing to do with the incident.”

A picture shows the scene of an explosion in Beirut on August 4, 2020.

ANWAR AMRO | AFP | Getty Images

Lebanese health minister Hamad Hasan said there was a “large number of wounded” in the port area blast, according to local news station LBC. 

Witnesses told CNBC that the explosion had taken out all the windows in the surrounding area, and described numerous injured and bloodied people walking around “in a daze.” Local media footage showed people trapped underneath rubble.

The Lebanese Red Cross said that hundreds of people have been rushed to hospitals, and tweeted an “urgent call for blood donations” at its transfusion centers across Lebanon. 

Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, posted a photo on Twitter of shattered glass with the caption: “My office at home – explosion near PM Hariri.” 

The explosion comes ahead of a long-awaited UN tribunal verdict on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the father of Saad Hariri, who was killed in a car bomb in 2005. The four suspects in the trial are all members of Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Shia paramilitary and political group widely seen as the most powerful political party in Lebanon. The suspects deny any role in Hariri’s death. The U.S. designates Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. 

People walk at scene of an explosion in Beirut on August 4, 2020.

ANWAR AMRO | AFP | Getty Images

A Pentagon spokesperson told CNBC: “DoD is aware of the explosion in Beirut and greatly concerned for the apparent loss of life from such destruction. We are actively monitoring developments but have nothing to offer regarding the cause of the explosion nor its aftermath.”

A senior Trump administration official said, “We have seen these reports and are following the situation closely.” 

—CNBC’s Amanda Macias contributed to this report.

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