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Massive explosion in Beirut port area rocks Lebanese capital

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

ANWAR AMRO | AFP | Getty Images

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.

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. Local media footage showed people trapped underneath rubble.

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. 

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

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.” 

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