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Xi extends condolences over Beirut blast

Smoke rises from the site of an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon August 4, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

President Xi Jinping sent a message of condolence to Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Wednesday over explosions in the country’s capital, Beirut, that killed more than 110 people.

In the message, Xi said he was shocked to learn about the explosions, which caused heavy casualties and property losses.

“On behalf of the Chinese government and people, and in my own name, I would like to express my sorrow for the loss of life and extend my deep condolences to the families of the victims as well as the injured,” Xi said.

Two explosions rocked Beirut on Tuesday, leaving more than 110 people dead and 4,000 injured, according to multiple media reports.

The blasts hit the Port of Beirut at around 6:10 pm local time, shaking buildings all over the city. The number of casualties is expected to rise as search and rescue efforts and medical treatment of the injured continue.

The cause of the blasts remained unknown on Wednesday, but reports point to ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse in Beirut’s port for six years as a possible cause of the explosions.

Lebanon’s Cabinet on Wednesday declared a two-week state of emergency in Beirut, and handed control of security there to the military, Reuters reported.

The Lebanese government also said it was putting an unspecified number of Beirut port officials under house arrest pending an investigation, according to AFP.

Following the explosions, Aoun had called for an emergency meeting of the country’s Supreme Defense Council, according to the presidency’s Twitter account.

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab declared a national day of mourning on Wednesday for the victims of the explosions.

The Chinese embassy in Lebanon told reporters that one Chinese person was slightly injured and no Chinese had been killed in the explosion so far.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in Wednesday’s news briefing that China expresses deep sympathy and condolences over the incident and is willing to provide assistance within its capacity for Lebanon in handling the incident.

A man is evacuated at the site of an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon August 4, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Many countries also expressed solidarity and sympathy with Lebanon over the explosions, which dealt a further blow to a country already battling the COVID-19 pandemic and an economic crisis.

Lebanon’s Al-Jadeed TV reported that Iraq and Qatar will send field hospitals to Lebanon, while French President Emmanuel Macron, in a phone call with Aoun, promised on Wednesday to also send help.

Russia’s Ministry of Civil Defense, Emergencies and Disaster Relief said it will send rescuers, medical workers, a makeshift hospital and a lab for coronavirus testing to Lebanon.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry expressed sorrow on Tuesday over the casualties and damage caused by the explosions, in which two Turkish citizens were slightly injured.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi extended his condolences to Lebanon and wished a speedy recovery for those injured in the blasts. “My sincere condolences and sympathy go to the government and people of Lebanon over the tragic explosions,” he wrote on his official Facebook page.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday that his country is ready to provide any support it could to Lebanon to help it recover from the tragedy, while sending his condolences to the families of the victims.

Smoke rises from the site of an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon August 4, 2020. REUTERS/Issam Abdallah

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Ishtaye said in a statement that Palestine is “ready to put all its capabilities” at the service of Lebanon and provide any needed assistance immediately.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, also expressed sorrow over the “devastating tragedy” and her wishes for Beirut to overcome the calamity.

In the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Islamic Hamas movement’s political bureau, phoned Aoun to express his support for Lebanon.

In a rare move, Israel offered Lebanon humanitarian aid on Tuesday over the explosions.

Smoke rises after an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon August 4, 2020, in this picture obtained from a social media video. [Photo/Agencies]

“Israel has approached Lebanon through international security and diplomatic channels and has offered the Lebanese government medical and humanitarian assistance,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry said in a joint statement.

Israel and Lebanon have no official ties, and tensions have been rising on the Israel-Lebanon border recently.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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