A huge fire has broken out in Beirut’s port at the site of a deadly explosion that killed nearly 200 people last month.
Video images show a large column of black smoke billowing into the sky over the Lebanese capital. Port workers, filming the tower of flames and black smoke above the port, could be seen running from the area in panic in, with people shouting “everyone, go!”
The Lebanese army said that a “warehouse of oil and tyres” in Beirut Port’s Free Zone had caught fire and they had joined efforts to extinguish the blaze, including drafting in helicopters.
Helicopters carrying buckets of water were seen flying across the city.
Local media reported that the army was starting to evacuate people nearby. Panicked citizens in surrounding areas began getting in their cars, saying they would leave Beirut.
Michel El-Murr, head of the fire department rescue team, told The Independent they believed the fire was sparked by workers using an electric saw to cut through metal debris in the port during the ongoing clean-up operations.
“We still do not know exactly what is inside the warehouse which is on fire, we cannot rule out explosive materials – but we think it is unlikely.”
“We have about 100 men here, including the fire department, civil defence and army as well as the helicopters, we are trying to contain the fire,” he added.
The Lebanese capital was devastated last month after a massive explosion ripped through the city, killing at least 190 people, wounding thousands more, and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.
It was caused by the detonation of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, which had been left to languish at Beirut’s port for six years despite authorities being aware of the huge risk it posed.