UN: 178 killed in Beirut explosion, 30 still missing

UN: 178 killed in Beirut explosion, 30 still missing
The death toll from the Beirut blast has reached nearly 180, with at least 30 people still missing, according to the United Nations.
3 min read
The blast has changed the face of Beirut and forced the government to resign [Getty]

The death toll from last week's massive explosion in Lebanon's capital has risen to nearly 180, with an estimated 6,000 people injured and at least 30 missing, the United Nations said Friday.

The explosion has affected operations at six hospitals, up from an initial three, and damaged more than 20 clinics in the parts of Beirut worst hit by the blast, the UN's humanitarian affairs agency said in its report.

“A preliminary rapid assessment within a 15-kilometre radius of the explosions, has revealed that, out of 55 medical facilities, only half are fully operational and around 40 per cent have suffered moderate to serious damage and need rehabilitation,” the report said.

It still wasn't known what caused the August 4 fire that ignited nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in Beirut’s port. But documents have emerged in the wake of the explosion that show the country’s top leadership and security officials were aware of the chemicals being stored in the city port.

The blast has changed the face of the capital and forced the government to resign. Lebanon’s Parliament on Thursday approved a state of emergency in Beirut in its first session since the tragic explosion last week, granting the military sweeping powers amid rising popular anger and political uncertainty.

Some 120 schools, used by 50,000 students, have been damaged. More than 1,000 of nearly 50,000 residential units were severely damaged, the UN report said.

At east 13 refugees, including at least two Palestinians, were among those killed and more than 170,000 residents' apartments were damaged, according to the UN report.

Despite damage to the silos in the Beirut port, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said food shortages are not expected.

The blast struck Beirut in the midst of a crippling financial and economic crisis, and the UN predicted people may have difficulties restoring or fixing their homes. But at least 55 percent of buildings assessed were rented, which may allow people to move elsewhere, the UN said.

According to the world body the Beirut port is operating at 30 percent capacity and the Tripoli port in the country's north, at 70 percent. That is allowing for food and goods to continue to flow. The World Food Program is bringing in a three-month supply of wheat flour and grains.

The agency said however it is concerned about a surge in coronavirus cases, particularly as social distancing is relaxed during the widespread volunteering to help those affected by the blast and protests against the government and political elite.

The government resigned on August 10 and the Cabinet remains in caretaker capacity. Protesters are demanding officials be held accountable for the blast.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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