The Finnish embassy in Beirut has reportedly been ‘destroyed’ by the blast from a powerful explosion which rocked the Lebanese capital on Tuesday evening.
Deputy Head of Mission Aki Kauppinen told Helsingin Sanomat in a phone interview that the embassy, located some 2km away from the port area where the incident happened, had been destroyed: “it doesn’t really exist” he told the newspaper.
Kauppinen said that there are no known Finnish casualties from the explosion, and that any Finnish nationals in Beirut are being advised to stay in a safe place, or seek medical treatment if necessary.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) confirmed the embassy premises have been “badly damaged”.
“My condolences to the relatives of the deceased. Shocking news” the PM wrote on Twitter.
Multiple videos and photographs captured an ongoing fire and smaller detonations, and then a much larger blast which sent a shockwave across the city, and a mushroom cloud of smoke into the sky. It caused widespread devastation in the immediate port area, and damaged buildings several kilometres away. The blast was reportedly also felt in Cyprus, around 200km distant.
More than two dozen people have been confirmed dead by Lebanese authorities, with several thousands more reported injured – and authorities expect the casualty numbers to climb as rescue and recovery efforts continue into the night. Hospitals, damaged by the percussive blast, have struggled to cope with the influx of casualties.
Officials in Lebanon have speculated a fire and small explosions at a building storing fireworks may have ignited some chemicals in an adjacent building – but there is no definitive answer yet about what caused the blast.
Another Finnish diplomat in Beirut, Paula Jääskeläinen, told Helsingin Sanomat that all the windows in her home were broken by the air pressure, and the building was swaying. She says that she didn’t know if more explosions would be coming, or whether her building would collapse.