As Lebanon reels from a major explosion that has killed dozens and injured thousands, the nation's Prime Minister has revealed a disturbing fact about the warehouse at the centre of the blast.
The explosion erupted in the Beirut's port area late afternoon on Tuesday, with videos showing a fire burning in a building in the area before an enormous blast.
Lebanon's Prime Minister Hassan Diab said 2750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate had been stored in a warehouse for years. He said this was "unacceptable".
"It is unacceptable that a shipment of 2750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate has been present for six years in a warehouse, without taking preventive measures and endangering the safety of citizens."
People evacuate wounded after of a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon. Photo / AP
Author and former spy Aimen Dean took to Twitter and said that, given his knowledge and experience with ammonium nitrates explosives, the warehouse was a "massive time bomb".
Local media reports indicate the chemicals were seized from a sinking ship more than a decade ago.
The blast 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.
The disaster comes amid a difficult period for Lebanon, which was already suffering under a number of major crises.
Iranian-backed Hezbollah also quickly shot down theories that the explosion was related to a weapons facility or an Israeli strike.
"This tragic catastrophe and the unprecedented damage it has created ... require solidarity and unity from all Lebanese people, political forces and national actors," a statement from Hezbollah said.
The government was limiting daily electricity to just two to four hours a day and the nation's currency plunged 80 per cent.