An enormous explosion shook Beirut, Lebanon's capital, shattering much of the city's port and buildings. The blast sent a huge mushroom cloud into the sky.
The state-run National News Agency reported that the blast came from a firecracker warehouse.
The blast struck with the force of a 3.5 magnitude earthquake, according to Germany's geosciences center GFZ. It was heard and felt as far away as Cyprus over 200 kilometers (180 miles) across the Mediterranean.
Footage at the time of the blast showed damaged buildings near the scene.
Rania Masri, a resident of Beirut and who was a few kilometers away at the time of the blast, told CNN:
"What I felt was that it was an earthquake."
"The apartment shook horizontally, and all of a sudden, it felt like an explosion. Then, windows and doors burst open. The glass just broke."
"Many homes were also damaged or destroyed."
For blocks around the port, where the explosion took place, bloodied residents staggered through streets.
Flipped cars and litters, with rubble from shattered buildings, also covered most of the streets. The blast also smashed windows and doors miles from the scene.
The blast's damage was so severe that military bulldozers had to clear roadways for firefighters and ambulances in some streets.
This tragic explosion came amid ongoing tensions between Israel and the Hezbollah military group on Lebanon's southern border.
And many residents reported hearing military planes just before the blast, fueling rumors of an attack — though Israeli military overflights are common.
However, an Israeli government official said Israel 'had nothing to do' with the blast.
The representative spoke on anonymity because officials didn't allow him to discuss the matter with the news media. Israeli officials usually don't comment on 'foreign reports.'
Death Toll from the Explosion Rises
Lebanon's Health Minister, Hamad Hasan, told journalists that the aftermath injured thousands of people. The death toll has risen to at least 200 people at the time of writing.
Lebanon's government has launched an investigation into the cause of the explosion.
In addition to the casualties and structural damage, the explosion at Beirut's vital port threatens to deepen Lebanon's dire economic crisis.
As journalist Habib Battah noted, the port handles 'billions of dollars' worth of imports, including national wheat silos.'
"The damage will be massive and could not come at a worse time when everyone is broke and hungry."