At least two massive explosions shook Beirut on Tuesday, injuring and killing hundreds of people, strewing devastation across multiple neighborhoods and shattering windows for miles around.
The cause of the early-evening blasts was not immediately clear, but senior officials said it appeared that flammable materials stored in a warehouse in the port area had caught fire. An initial, smaller explosion had apparently ignited a fire. Then came two secondary blasts, propelling a vast mushroom cloud of pink and yellow smoke over the city.
The casualty toll rose through the evening. By midnight, the Health Ministry put the toll at 63 dead and more than 3,000 injured.
Hospitals were overwhelmed by the number of injuries. One, the Hotel Dieu, said it had received over 500 injured people in the first hours after the blasts. For more than an hour after the explosions, people with blood streaming down their faces or limbs wandered the streets trying to find a way of reaching hospitals on roads too clogged with traffic and debris for ambulances and taxis to move.
In the early hours of Wednesday, Red Cross workers were still scouring the wrecked and deserted streets in neighborhoods adjoining the port, calling out to residents who might be trapped and injured to identify themselves.