Pleasant Prairie resident and Lebanon native 'in shock' over Beirut explosion

NOW: Pleasant Prairie resident and Lebanon native ’in shock’ over Beirut explosion

PLEASANT PRAIRIE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A colossal explosion shook downtown Beirut with the force of a 3.5 magnitude earthquake, followed by a shock wave that blew windows out across Lebanon’s capital Tuesday, Aug. 4. 

The government has now declared a two-week state of emergency after half the city was damaged in that blast.

The country’s health minister now saying the death toll has risen to 135 people killed, around 5000 people have been injured, and hundreds more are still missing.

One woman CBS 58 spoke with locally, is finding it hard to describe the horror. Videos show smoke billowing from a fire, a huge cloud following the blast at Beirut’s port.

“Just total catastrophe and chaos," Vera Maalouf said. 

Vera Maalouf moved to the United Stated from Lebanon in the 70s, during the country’s civil war. She still has family and friends living there, some of them sending her videos as the tragedy unfolded.

“I saw this explosion and honestly it looked like some kind of a nuclear bomb,” said Maalouf. “We were very, very scared, we were just in shock, initially wondering what’s going on?”

She rushed to turn on the news and call her loved ones to make sure they were alright.

Luckily they are, but the devastation is everywhere.

Local streets turning into makeshift hospitals, many of them already at capacity with COVID-19 cases, forced to evacuate as buildings crumbled around them.

Entire neighborhoods were destroyed-including the Noursat Christian Television Station with whom Vera volunteers on the board of directors with.

“Sad, unbelievable, this is something you see in some crazy movie,” said Vera. “Not in real life where you have family and friends living there.”

The explosion so strong, it was felt in neighboring countries.

Local officials believe the blast was caused by the detonation of more than 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse ever since it was confiscated from a cargo ship in 2014.

“What happens won’t pass without accountability, those responsible will pay the price for what happened,” said Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab.

At the White House, President Donald Trump offered his sympathies.

"Our prayers go out to all the victims and their families,” said President Donald Trump. “The United States stands ready to assist Lebanon."

“The most important thing to do right now is take care of the people. The injured, the sick, finding the missing people,” said Vera. “Really, in the end, it’s about the people. I keep saying it’s about the human tragedy. Of how something like this can happen.”

It's still unclear what exactly caused the explosion-but port officials have been placed on house arrest as the investigation is underway.

The Lebanese Red Cross is accepting donations, to find out how you can help and donate, CLICK HERE.

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