At least 22 were killed and 79 injured early Sunday after a fuel tank exploded in Northern Lebanon after the army seized a warehouse holding approximately 60,000 liters (16,850 gallons) of gasoline hidden by black marketeers.
#Lebanon wakes up to horrific news. At least 20 ppl killed & 79 injured, says Red Cross, in a fuel tanker explosion in Akkar in northern Lebanon. The country is struggling to keep hospitals open as fuel supplies dwindle & electricity cuts become the norm. pic.twitter.com/ioZFuJCPYo— Arwa Ibrahim (@arwaib) August 15, 2021
Government forces were in the midst of distributing the gasoline to local residents in Tleil when the explosion took place.
"There was a rush of people, and arguments between some of them led to gunfire which hit the tank of gasoline and so it exploded," said one security source, while local Al-Jadeed TV reported via eyewitnesses that the explosion was caused by a person who ignited a lighter.
Around 200 people were nearby at the time of the explosion, according to Reuters.
"We need urgent help to evacuate some of the injured abroad..there are cases (of burns) that are more than the ability of Lebanese hospitals to handle," Health Minister Hamad Hassan told the outlet.
Army and security forces were among the casualties, according to sources.
"There were hundreds gathered there, right next to the tank, and God only knows what happened to them," said one man who was taken to Tripoli's al-Salam hospital after standing in line to get gasoline.
Red cross teams are canvassing the explosion site for more casualties.
Angry residents in Akkar gathered at the site and set fire to two dump trucks, according to a Reuters witness.
Some of the injured were sent to hospitals in nearby Tripoli, while others were sent to Beirut, said Rashid Maqsood, an official with the Islamic Medical Association.
The majority of the injured are in serious condition, said Dr. Salah Ishaq of al-Salam Hospital. “We can’t accommodate them, we don’t have the capabilities. It’s a very bad situation.”
With Lebanon deep in economic crisis, hospitals have warned that fuel shortages may force them to shut down in coming days, and have also reported low supplies of medicines and other essentials. -Reuters
"Some people were burned beyond recognition," Marwa el-Sheikh told AP while waiting for word about her brother who was being treated for burns, as well as her brother-in-law who is currently missing. "They are the victims of the shortcomings and carelessness of our politicians who led us to this."
According to AP, hospitals in Northern Lebanon are asking for blood donations of all types, while Health Minister Hamad Hassan has told hospitals that the government will pay for the treatment of those injured by the explosion.
Sunday's explosion was the deadliest since an Aug 4, 2020 explosion in Beirut's port which killed at least 214 people and wounded thousands.