US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered his “deepest condolences” to those affected by an enormous explosion in Beirut that sent much of the Lebanese capital into pandemonium.
The top US diplomat said Washington is “closely monitoring” the tragedy and stands “ready to assist the people of Lebanon as they recover.”
“Our team in Beirut has reported to me the extensive damage to a city and a people that I hold dear, an additional challenge in a time of already deep crisis,” Pompeo said in a statement. “We understand that the Government of Lebanon continues to investigate its cause and look forward to the outcome of those efforts.”
At least 63 people died and 2,750 others were injured when a blast erupted at Beirut’s port, the country’s health minister said Tuesday. Victims remain trapped under debris as rescue workers try to reach them.
Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud broke down in tears while speaking to reporters at the blast site, comparing the explosion to the horrific nuclear bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
The explosion came at a sensitive time, just days before the UN’s Special Tribunal for Lebanon is scheduled to announce its verdict in the assassination case of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was slain in a large explosion in Beirut in 2005.
The country is also grappling with its worst economic crisis in decades, and, like much of the world, is in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sources close to Hezbollah denied allegations that Monday’s massive explosion was an attack by Israel on their weapon depots.
Israeli officials, who spoke to local media on condition of anonymity, denied Israel’s involvement in the tragedy, saying the explosion could have been an accident.