Massive explosions flattened much of the port, damaged buildings and blew out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital. Witnesses saw many people injured by flying glass and debris.
Local news reported multiple people were wounded in the incident. People were reportedly trapped under rubble.
An Associated Press photographer near the port saw people lying injured on the ground, and hospitals called for blood donations, but exact injuries were not immediately known.
A red cloud hung over the city in the wake of the blast as firefighting teams rushed to the scene to try to put out the fire. Video captured destruction as it unfolded.
The explosion appeared to be centered around Beirut’s port and caused wide scale destruction. Miles from the scene of the blast, balconies were knocked down, ceiling collapsed and windows were shattered.
Online video showed a column of smoke rising from the port area from what appeared to be an initial explosion, followed by a massive blast that sent up a mushroom cloud and a shock wave racing over the city.
The source of the explosion was a major fire at a warehouse for firecrackers near the port in Beirut, the state-run National News Agency reported.
Many buildings were damaged by the explosion, including the headquarters of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and CNN’s bureau in the city.
Homes as far as 6.2 miles away were damaged, according to witnesses, and local media video showed cars destroyed and flipped over.
One Beirut resident who was several kilometers away from the site of the blast said her windows had been shattered by the explosion. “What I felt was that it was an earthquake,” Rania Masri told CNN.
“The apartment shook horizontally and all of a sudden it felt like an explosion and the windows and doors burst open,” Masri said. “The glass just broke. So many homes were damaged or destroyed.”