Lebanese government officials on Wednesday said that the site of a large explosion that killed at least 100 people and injured thousands in Beirut stored highly explosive material.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Hassaan Diab, said 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate, an explosive material used to make fertilizers and bombs, was stored at the blast site.
The prime minister said the material was kept at a port warehouse without safety measures for six years, “endangering the safety of citizens,” according to a statement obtained by CNN.
Diab has since launched an investigation into the deadly blast.
“I will not relax until we find the responsible party for what happened, hold it accountable and apply the most serious punishments against it because it isn’t acceptable that a shipment of ammonium nitrate — estimated to be 2,750 tons — was in a depot for the past six years without precautionary measures being taken,” Diab said, according to The New York Times.
The government reportedly had seized the explosive material and kept it in the location, the Times reported, citing top Lebanese officials. Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s general security service, also said “highly explosive materials” were kept at the explosion site, which President Michel Aoun later confirmed.
People have reported hundreds of family members missing as the death toll is expected to increase, according to Lebanon’s Health Minister, CNN reported. The city experienced an estimated $3 billion to $5 billion worth of damage, Beirut Gov. Marwan Abboud told reporters on Wednesday.
Hospitals had become so overwhelmed by the volume of people seeking assistance that they had to turn away some wounded individuals, the Times reported.
Diab declared Wednesday a national day of mourning, the news agency reported.
President TrumpDonald TrumpGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Super PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal MORE, in a press briefing on Tuesday, said the Beirut explosions were an “attack,” saying that military and national security advisers indicated it had been a bomb.
Accidental explosions of ammonium nitrate have resulted in fatalities previously, including the most deadly in 1947, when a ship carrying the explosive material caught on fire and exploded in Texas City, Texas’s harbor. That explosion sparked other blasts and fires that killed 581 people total, according to the Times.