BEIRUT (Reuters) – An arms depot of the Iran-backed Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah exploded in southern Lebanon on Tuesday, a security source said, injuring several people and sending a new shockwave across a nation grappling with its deepest crisis in three decades.
The security source said the arms depot blast, which sent a huge column of black smoke into the sky, was caused by a “technical error”.
The explosion rocked the village of Ain Qana in south Lebanon, a region that is a political stronghold of the heavily armed and politically powerful group which has fought wars with neighbouring Israel.
The blast has further rattled a nation grappling with its worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war and still reeling from a devastating explosion at Beirut port that ripped through the capital, killing at least 190 people.
Since the Beirut blast on August 4, subsequent fires at the port and elsewhere in the capital have caused panic in Beirut and across the country, whose economy is in meltdown while politicians have yet to agree on how to form a new government.
The previous government resigned after Beirut blast and is acting in a caretaker capacity. Forming the new cabinet has hit a logjam as Hezbollah and its main Shi’ite ally have demanded they name the finance and some other ministers.
Another security source said Hezbollah had set up a security cordon around Tuesday’s blast site, about 50 km (30 miles) south of Beirut. Journalists were prevented from approaching the area.
There was no immediate statement from Hezbollah. The group’s television channel Al Manar said in a news broadcast that the cause of the blast was still not clear.
Security sources said there were several injuries without giving figures.
A witness near the village said they felt the ground shake.
Footage from the area broadcast by Al-Jadeed showed men walking over scorched ground littered with debris. Damage was shown in an adjacent house where the floor was covered in glass and what appeared to be a pool of blood.
At least one fire was still burning in the location, the footage showed.
Reporting by Reuters Beirut Bureau; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Samia Nakhoul
Photo: A view of the village of Ain Qana, in Lebanon, September 22, 2020. REUTERS/Aziz Taher