Prime Minister Scott Morrison says an Australian has died in the explosion that rocked Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, overnight.
The death toll from the blast currently stands at 50, and is set to rise sharply in the coming hours. Thousands have been injured.
The explosion tore down buildings, flattened houses, ripped balconies from apartments, tossed cars from the nearby motorway and sent a huge plume of smoke billowing across the city.
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Appearing on Sunrise this morning, Mr Morrison said there was no information yet on what caused the tragedy, but confirmed he had received briefings overnight.
“There are normally around 20,000 Australians there at any time. We couldn’t say, because of COVID-19 restrictions, how many returned,” said the Prime Minister.
“It is very distressing, and I can confirm there has been one Australian that has been killed, which is terribly devastating.
“We can’t give more details on the specifics at this time, but our sympathies to all of the people in Lebanon. There is a large Lebanese-Australian community here and they would be worried about loved ones. The details will hopefully be provided soon.”
Mr Morrison said the Australian embassy in Beirut had been “significantly impacted” by the blast, but all of its staff were well, aside from some “cuts and scratches”.
On Channel 9’s Today program, he urged any Australians concerned about their family members to call +61 2 6261 3305.
“Our hearts really go out to the Lebanese-Australian community. I know there will be many prayers in the churches and the mosques in Australia, but again, given the COVID restrictions, I would just urge the appropriate response,” said Mr Morrison.
“Those private prayers this morning will be the ones that people will be offering, and so will I.”