BEIRUT, August 5. /TASS/. Beirut plunged into darkness overnight to Wednesday, with ambulance sirens heard wailing all over the city as hundreds of people injured by a powerful blast were being rushed to overcrowded hospitals.
"There are lots of injured, hospitals are packed. We will use nearby hotels in the center of Beirut to accommodate patients who do not require surgery," Health Minister Hassan Hamad said.
In his words, the government now focuses on rescuing people and recovering dead bodies under the rubble of collapsed buildings in the seaport zone.
Firefighting squads have not yet extinguished all fires in the seaport zone, and clouds of acrid smoke are still rising to the sky. Meanwhile, road services started to clear highways, blocked by fallen debris.
The shockwave ripped through the city, smashing windows and walls and knocking down ceiling elements and lighting fixtures. Citizens rushed outside, thinking that the capital was struck by an earthquake. The seismic center in Jordan said the blast generated seismic waves equal to a 4.5-magnitude earthquake.
Many people received shrapnel wounds and glass cuts. A huge number of cars and buses were damaged by the shockwave or falling debris.
"Nearly all Russian institutions sustained damage, including the Russian embassy in the Msaytbeh district, where doors and a facade window were blown out," embassy counsellor Vyacheslav Maksudov said, adding that one of the employees had to seek medical assistance.
The Russian Scientific and Cultural center on Verdun Street was "rocked very seriously," Rossotrudnichestvo official Vadim Zaychikov said. "We had some unpleasant moments."
Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud compared the blast to the 1945 nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In his words, residential buildings and officers were damaged in half of the city.
Starting from 00:00 on Wednesday, the two-week state of emergency has been in place in the Lebanese capital, which has been declared a disaster-stricken city. A commission to investigate the explosion is to prepare its report within the next five days.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab told the Supreme Defense Council of Lebanon that all those guilty will be found and punished. Diab also said it was inadmissible that 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate had been stored in the port for six years, without necessary precautions being taken.
According to latest reports, 78 people were killed and some 4,000 injured in the disaster. An effort to search for victims and remove debris is now under way. The government declared a four-day nationwide mourning.