Massive explosions rocked central Beirut, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital.

Witnesses in the Lebanese capital saw many people injured by flying glass and debris.

One said it felt like “a nuclear bomb”.

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The blast in central Beirut has caused damage across the city, collapsing buildings and shattering windows as far as 1.2 miles away.

Local Fady Roumieh was stood in the car park to shopping centre ABC Mall Achrafieh, around 2km east of the blast, when the explosion occurred.

“[It was] like a nuclear bomb,” he told the PA news agency.

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The mushroom cloud after the blast. Photo: Karim Sokhn/PA
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The mushroom cloud after the blast. Photo: Karim Sokhn/PA
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People walk down the street after an explosion in Beirut. Photo: AP
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People walk down the street after an explosion in Beirut. Photo: AP

“The damage is so widespread and severe all over the city.

“Some buildings as far as 2km are partially collapsed.

“It’s like a war zone. The damage is extreme. Not one glass window intact.”

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Mr Roumieh said the blast appeared to be centred on the city’s port.

He added that the incident has been compounded by the current political climate in the city amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“And the emotional trauma to this city is what’s worst,” he added.

“On top of the pandemic.

“The total economic meltdown.

“And currency devaluation.”

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A cloud from a massive explosion is seen in in Beirut. Photo: Hasssan Ammar/AP
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A cloud from a massive explosion is seen in in Beirut. Photo: Hasssan Ammar/AP
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The aftermath of a massive explosion is seen in in Beirut, Lebanon. Photo: Hassan Ammar/AP
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The aftermath of a massive explosion is seen in in Beirut, Lebanon. Photo: Hassan Ammar/AP

A photographer near the port saw people lying injured on the ground, and hospitals called for blood donations, but exact casualties were not immediately known.

Miles from the scene of the blast, balconies were knocked down, ceiling collapsed and windows were shattered.

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The cause of the blast was not immediately clear.

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People help a man wounded in a massive explosion. Photo: Hassan Ammar/AP
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People help a man wounded in a massive explosion. Photo: Hassan Ammar/AP

It came at a time when Lebanon is passing through its worst economic and financial crisis in decades.

It also comes amid rising tensions between Israel and the militant Hezbollah group along Lebanon’s southern border.

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.

Some local TV stations reported the blast was at Beirut’s port inside an area where fireworks were stored.

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