European leaders express support for Lebanon after massive blast

<p><em>(Anadolu photo)</em></p>

(Anadolu photo)

LONDON – Europe-wide reactions flowed in Tuesday after a massive explosion rocked the Lebanese capital Beirut, killing at least 50 people and injuring more than 2,750 others.

The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell expressed the bloc’s support for Lebanon on Twitter.

"The European Union expresses its full solidarity and full support for the families of the victims, the Lebanese people and authorities following the violent explosions that hit Beirut on this day," Borrell wrote.

EU Council President Charles Michel also said on Twitter that his “thoughts are with the people of Lebanon and with the families of the victims of the tragic Beirut blast.”

“The EU stands ready to provide assistance and support. Stay strong.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram to his Lebanese counterpart Michel Aoun to offer his condolences.

"Russia shares the grief of the Lebanese people. I ask you to convey my words of sympathy and support to the families and friends of the victims, as well as my wishes for a speedy recovery to all those affected," Putin said in the telegram.

French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his "fraternal solidarity with the Lebanese after the explosion, which caused so many victims and damage this evening in Beirut.”

“France stands alongside Lebanon. Always. French aid and resources are being delivered to the site," he wrote on Twitter.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “the pictures and videos from Beirut tonight are shocking.”

He wrote on Twitter: “All of my thoughts and prayers are with those caught up in this terrible incident. The UK is ready to provide support in any way we can, including to those British nationals affected.”

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Twitter that his “thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the devastating explosion in Beirut today” and “the UK stands in solidarity with the people of Lebanon.”

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio tweeted: “Italy is close to its Lebanese friends in this tragic moment."

"Our thoughts go to the families of the victims, to whom we express our deep condolences, and to people wounded, to whom we send our best wishes of a swift recovery.”

A fire at a warehouse with explosives at the Port of Beirut led to the massive blast that tore down a three-story building and was heard across the city and its suburbs.

Footage shared on social media showed smoke from the fire, followed by a large mushroom cloud.

The warehouse stored explosives that had previously been seized, Lebanon's police chief said.

Local media claimed that the number of casualties is much higher than the official figures announced by authorities.

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab said those responsible for the incident would be brought to account.

Describing the incident as a "disaster", Diab urged all friendly countries to provide emergency assistance to the country.

President Aoun assembled the High Defense Council at the Baabda Presidential Palace in the capital following the explosion.

Aoun instructed all armed forces to conduct patrols in the affected districts of the capital and suburbs to control security, the Lebanese Presidency said in a statement.

He also asked to provide first aid to the injured people at the expense of the Health Ministry and shelter for victims who were displaced as a result of the huge damage to property.

Former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri – who lives near the area of the explosion – is said to be unharmed, according to initial reports.

However, nearby buildings, including Al Hariri's residence and the Beirut Rafic Al-Hariri International Airport, suffered major damage.

People are trapped under the debris as rescue workers try to reach them.

Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud, who broke down in tears while speaking to reporters at the blast site, compared the explosion to the horrific nuclear bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that instantly killed hundreds of thousands of people.

Kazakhstan's ambassador to Beirut was injured and the embassy building was damaged, according to a statement.

Nazar Najarian, the leader of Lebanon's Kataeb Party, also died of wounds from the blast.

The explosion came at a sensitive time days before the UN’s Special Tribunal for Lebanon is to announce its verdict in the assassination case of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri.

Later in the day, sources close to Hezbollah denied the allegations that the explosion in Beirut was an attack by Israel on their own weapon depots.

Israeli officials, who spoke to local media on condition of anonymity, denied Israel's involvement in the incident, saying the explosion could have been an accident.

Lebanon's economy is currently facing its worst crisis in decades. (Anadolu)