His remarks were made at a briefing on the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, where he began the conference expressing his condolences to the people of Lebanon.
“Reports indicate that many, many people were killed, hundreds were badly wounded in a large explosion in Beirut. Our prayers go out to all the victims and their families. The United States stands ready to assist Lebanon. We have a very good relationship with the people of Lebanon and we will be there to help. It looks like a terrible attack,” he said.
Asked later whether he was confident that the Beirut explosion was an “attack and not an accident,” Trump responded, “It would seem like it, based on the explosion. I’ve met with some of our great generals and they just seemed to feel that it was, it was not some kind of a manufacturing explosion type of event. This was a—seems to be, according to them, they would know better than I would, but they seem to think it was an attack. It was a bomb of some kind.”
The cause of the huge blast, which occurred in port warehouses near central Beirut storing highly explosive material, was not immediately clear.
Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency said that the source of the explosion was a major fire at a firecracker warehouse. According to a translation, the agency said that a “major fire broke out in Amber No. 12 near the wheat silos at the Beirut port, in a bunker warehouse.” The report added that the fires were put out by firefighting teams.
Lebanon’s president, Michel Aoun, said that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate had been stored for six years at the port without safety measures and said it was “unacceptable.” He called for an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday and said that a two-week state of emergency should be declared.
The death toll from the blast is at least 78. Officials said they expected the death toll to rise further as emergency workers dig through rubble to rescue people and remove the dead.
The explosion flattened much of the port and damaged buildings across Beirut, and sent shockwaves that reached miles.
A red-orange glow hung over the city following the explosion.
Lebanon’s health minister, Hamad Hasan, told the BBC that extensive damage and numerous injuries were reported.
It was the most powerful explosion in years to hit Beirut, coming at a time when Lebanon is facing its worst economic and financial crisis in decades.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement expressing his condolences to the victims of the blast.
“I’d like to extend my deepest condolences to all those affected by the massive explosion at the port of Beirut today. We are closely monitoring and stand ready to assist the people of Lebanon as they recover from this tragedy,” he said in a statement.
“Our team in Beirut has reported to me the extensive damage to a city and a people that I hold dear, an additional challenge in a time of already deep crisis,” Pompeo added. “We understand that the Government of Lebanon continues to investigate its cause and look forward to the outcome of those efforts.”