A fuel tank has exploded inside a Beirut building, killing four people and injuring several others, the Lebanese Red Cross said.
It was not immediately clear what triggered the blast in the western neighbourhood of Tariq al-Jadida on Friday night. The state-run national news agency said the blaze erupted inside a bakery in the basement of the building.
Reports said the explosion could be heard across the city.
Firefighters quickly put out the flames and later helped building residents stuck in their apartments by the fire to climb down ladders. Lebanese troops also deployed to the area and pushed back onlookers.
A Beirut television station said more than 30 people were hurt, with a medical source adding that three children were hospitalised with burns.
A security source said the fire took hold in an underground premises where there was also petrol.
Friends reported their buildings shook when it happened.
Lebanese really need a break. pic.twitter.com/JNLlwawgRG
— Luna Safwan – لونا صفوان (@LunaSafwan) October 9, 2020
In the last few weeks, Beirut municipality has been looking for warehouses that could be in breach of the law or pose a danger to residential areas, governor Marwan Aboud told the Lebanese Al-Jadeed television station.
“We feared that such an accident could happen,” Aboud said, adding around 100 sites had been identified as suspect.
Firefighters using mobile ladders evacuated people from buildings in the bustling district.
Friday’s explosion was the latest in a series of terrible events in a country hit with an unprecedented economic crisis and lacking the most basic public services.
Several fires have broken out at Beirut’s port after a cataclysmic blast at Beirut’s port on 4 August killed 203 people, injured at least 6,500 others and ravaged swathes of the capital, causing damage worth billions of dollars. Nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical used in fertilisers, exploded. The material had been stored at the facility for six years.
It is still not known what ignited the nitrate but more than two dozen people, many of them port and customs officials have been detained since.
In other parts of Lebanon, wildfires erupted in forests amid a heatwave hitting the Mediterranean country.