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'It's heartbreaking': Scott Morrison sends condolences to family of Australian killed in Beirut blast

'It's heartbreaking': Scott Morrison sends condolences to family of Australian killed in Beirut blast
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has offered his condolences to Australia's Lebanese community following a deadly blast in Beirut that killed at least one Australian and up to 78 others.
A further 4000 have been injured.
"There's 20,000, I understand, Australian residents, dual citizens who would normally be in Lebanon, now that may be less because of COVID and people coming home, it may not be, we don't know," Mr Morrison told 2GB's Ray Hadley.
"But obviously I can understand the high level of concern in the Lebanese community in Australia.
IN PICTURES: Explosion rocks capital city of Lebanon
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"Our embassy was affected, as well, in the blast, and so we have our own challenges in securing our communications there, but all our people are fine, but they are dealing in what is a very difficult set of circumstances.
"It's heartbreaking. There's been a lot of heartbreaking news lately, Ray, 2020 has been quite a shocker."
The blast, which sent a giant mushroom cloud into the sky, flattened much of the port and damaged buildings across the capital.
Many bodies remain buried in the rubble.
Earlier, Mr Morrison told Today one Australian had been killed in the blast and officials were contacting family members before further details could be released.
"It's my deep regret to inform you that one Australian has been killed in this horrific blast. We obviously can't confirm details of that at this stage because there is contacts with families and others," Mr Morrison said.
Mr Morrison said some members of the Australian Embassy in Beirut had received minor injuries after the explosion.
"Our embassy in Beirut has been impacted significantly. But I can report all of our staff there are okay. Cuts and some scratches and these sorts of things," he said.
"You can see from the image of the blast it is just absolutely devastating. But beyond that, as we know, there are hundreds of thousands of Australians who have Lebanese descent and they will be concerned about family members."
The cause of the blast, which sparked fires, overturned cars and blew out windows and doors, was not immediately known.
However, Abbas Ibrahim, chief of Lebanese General Security, said it might have been caused by highly explosive material that was confiscated from a ship some time ago and stored at the port.
A huge explosion in Beirut has killed at least 50 people. (AP)
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne told 2GB's Ben Fordham the explosion was "absolutely shocking", and there are around 20,000 Australians in Lebanon at any one time.
"What we are seeing on our televisions and online is very confronting," Ms Payne said.
"Tragically we have lost one Australia, we are not going into the details at the moment while we work with family and consular authorities to support them.
"We are very, very, sorry and convey our sympathy to the family and friends of that Australian.
"The size of this event, the size of the explosion and its impact is going to have caused a very significant number of fatalities (and) we will work closely with local authorities to establish the extent of the impact on Australians."
Aftermath of a massive explosion is seen in in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP)
Local television channel LBC said the material was sodium nitrate.
Witnesses reported seeing a strange orange-coloured cloud over the site after the explosion. Orange clouds of toxic nitrogen dioxide gas often accompany an explosion involving nitrates.
The blast was stunning even for a city that has seen civil war and suicide bombings. It could be heard and felt as far away as Cyprus, more than 200 kilometres across the Mediterranean.
A large explosion rips through the Lebanese capital of Beirut. (CNN)
"It was a real horror show. I haven't seen anything like that since the days of the (civil) war," Marwan Ramadan, who was about 500 metres from the port and was knocked off his feet by the force of the explosion, said.
Initially, video taken by residents showed a fire raging at the port, sending up a giant column of smoke, illuminated by flashes of what appear to be fireworks. Local TV stations reported that a fireworks warehouse was involved.
The fire then appeared to catch at a nearby building, triggering a more massive explosion, sending up a mushroom cloud and a shock wave.
- With Associated Press