DEVASTATING before and after pics show how the Beirut blast ground zero was vaporised yesterday.
The massive explosion a fifth of the size of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb killed at least 100 people in the Lebanon’s capital.
The blast was so big it tore the clothes from people’s bodies, ripped balconies from flats and hurled cars through the air as if they were toys.
And shocking aerial images have revealed its devastating impact on the area around its epicentre.
Satellite snaps show how the mushroom cloud blast took a massive chunk out of the port, creating a beach out of a concrete pier as water rushed into the crater.
Dozens of enormous warehouses around the explosion were completely levelled, the pictures reveal.
The disaster was sparked when a welder ignited 2,750 tons of explosive chemicals in the port area, it’s reported.
The worker was trying to seal a hole to prevent theft from a warehouse, according to Lebanese TV station LBCI.
HUNT FOR ANSWERS
Many people are feared to still be trapped under the rubble and inside their damaged homes, with a desperate hunt now launched to find survivors.
Investigators are now searching the wreckage near the blast site for clues to the cause of the catastrophe, as the port officials were placed put under house arrest.
An official letter has surfaced online showing the head of the customs department had warned repeatedly over the years that a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate stored in a hangar in the port was a danger and asked for a way to remove it.
Ammonium nitrate is a component of fertiliser that is potentially explosive.
The 2,750-ton cargo had been stored at the port since it was confiscated from a ship in 2013, and on Tuesday it is believed to have detonated after a fire broke out nearby.
The resulting explosion hitting with the force of a 3.5-magnitude earthquake was the biggest ever seen in Beirut, a city blasted by a 1975-1990 civil war, bombarded in conflicts with Israel and hit by periodic terror attacks.
Up to 250,000 people have been left homeless by the explosion which caused around £5billion of damage, local reports say.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab described the disaster as a “national catastrophe” and added “those responsible will pay the price”.
His wife and daughter were injured in the explosion after it damaged his residence at The Government Palace.
Rescuers were today pictured dragging people from the rubble of their homes and rushing them away for treatment.
‘WORST THING I’VE SEEN’
But several of Beirut’s hospitals were damaged in the blast, hampering their efforts to treat the constant stream of wounded victims.
Outside the stricken St George University Hospital, people with various injuries arrived in ambulances, in cars and on foot.
Abour, 21, was inside the hospital when the blast ripped through the building, killing some patients in their beds.
“It was the worst thing I have ever seen,” he said, still shaking with blood smeared down his face from pulling the wounded out from rubble and dragging them to safety.
He added: “Some critical cases were pinned under shattered windows and heavy ward doors that had been blown clean out of their frames.
“I moved those not plugged into ventilators as best as I could.
“But I saw people bleed to death, their intravenous drips pulled out, some died without oxygen.”