More than 60 people are still missing in Beirut, four days after a massive explosion at the port left more than 150 people dead, a health ministry official said Saturday.
"The number of dead is 154, including 25 who have not yet been identified," the official told Agence France Presse. "In addition, we have more than 60 people still missing."
The health minister said on Friday that at least 120 of the 5,000 people who were injured on Tuesday are in critical condition.
At least 10 times over the past six years, authorities from Lebanon’s customs, military, security agencies and judiciary raised alarm that a massive stockpile of explosive chemicals was being kept with almost no safeguard at the port in the heart of Beirut, newly surfaced documents show.
Yet in a circle of negligence, nothing was done — and on Tuesday, the 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate blew up, obliterating the city’s main commercial hub and spreading death and wreckage for kilometers around.
French and Russian rescue teams with dogs searched the port area on Friday, pulling more bodies from the rubble. Women cried nearby as they waited for news about missing relatives.
France has sent a team of 22 investigators to help investigate the cause of the blast. Based on information from Lebanon so far, France’s No. 2 forensic police official, Dominique Abbenanti, said Friday the explosion “appears to be an accident” but that it’s too early to say for sure.
In an interview with the AP, he predicted that the death toll would grow.