In Beirut, early Tuesday evening, a pair of explosions, the second much bigger than the first, struck the city, killing at least 100 people, wounding more than 4,000, and causing widespread damage.
Beyond the industrial waterfront, the explosions tore through popular nightlife and shopping districts and densely populated neighborhoods.
More than 750,000 people live in the parts of the city that were damaged.
"There are no words to describe the catastrophe that hit Beirut yesterday, which transformed it into a disaster-stricken city. () I thank all the officials in the neighboring and friendly countries, who contacted us and expressed their support for Lebanon, and their position next to its people in its times of distress, and their desire to help, and I urge them to speed up assistance to help us support hospitals, our devastated families, and to help us restore the damage that has hit buildings and the Beirut Port."
Joining us live for an in-depth analysis of the situation in Beirut and its ramifications is Park Hyon-do, Research Professor at the Institute of Middle Eastern Affairs at Myongji University.
Professor Park, welcome to the program.
The exact cause of the explosion remains undetermined. The cause of the first blast may be a fireworks warehouse at the port, but investigators continue to determine whether the blasts were an accident or intentionally triggered.
Beirut was engulfed in civil war from 1975 to 1990 and has seen bombings and conflict since then, raising fears of a possible return of violence.
But head of Lebanon's general security service, Major General Abbas Ibrahim has warned against speculations of terrorism before facts were known.
In your analysis of the current situation, is it safe to rule out any speculations of terrorism?
The source of the second, much bigger explosion, most likely was a nearby 2,750-ton stockpile of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical often used in fertilizers and bombs.
Senior Lebanese officials knew about the ammonium nitrate being stored in Hangar 12 of Beirut's port for more than six year, including Prime Minister Hassan Diab.
What can you tell us about ammonium nitrate?
What other large explosions has the substance caused?
Now, this cargo is said to have arrived in Lebanon in September 2013, as the ship was forced to dock in Beirut after facing technical problems at sea and eventually abandoned.
Lebanese Customs officials are reported to have sent multiple letters for direction on what to do with the cargo as it poses danger.
Why was this cargo left abandoned from the beginning and over the last 6 years? What's happened since its docking in September of 2013?
Why was ammonium nitrate stored in a populated area of Beirut?
Lebanese President Michel Aoun called the failure to deal with the ammonium nitrate "unacceptable" and vowed the "harshest punishment" for those responsible.
The committee is report its investigation findings to the judiciary within five days
How do you think things will play out in finding the party to hold accountable for this incident?
The city of Beirut is now in rubbles and the people will voice anger and resentment towards those who ruled Lebanon for the past decade.
Since last fall, waves of protesters have taken to the streets to vent anger with Lebanon’s political elite over what they consider the mismanagement of the country.
Amidst picking up from the rubbles, how do you see the people's conduct to change towards its leadership?
Even before the explosions, Lebanon had been suffering from a series of crises: the plunging value of its currency, an influx of refugees from neighboring Syria and the coronavirus pandemic.
With victims of the explosion having to be rushed to hospitals, do we see further setbacks?
How does this incident impact the greater Middle Eastern region?
Park Hyon-do, Research Professor at the Institute of Middle Eastern Affairs at Myongji University, many thanks as always for your insights this evening. We appreciate it.