The explosion killed at least 130 people and injured around 5,000 others.
The whole city was shaken by the explosion and a mushroom cloud could be seen spreading over the port area.
The explosion was the most powerful ever to rip through Beirut, a city torn apart by civil war three decades ago. The economy was already in meltdown before the blast, slowing grain imports as the nation struggled to find hard currency for purchases.
On Wednesday, EU Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič said, “We share the shock and sorrow of the people of Beirut at the fatal explosion which left many people dead and many more injured. Our condolences go out to all who have lost loved ones.”
He added, “At this difficult time, the European Union offers its full support to the Lebanese people. As an immediate first response, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism was activated at the request of the Lebanese authorities.”
The EU Civil Protection Mechanism is, he said, currently coordinating the urgent deployment of more than 100 highly trained firefighters, with vehicles, dogs and equipment, specialising in urban search and rescue.
They will work with the Lebanese authorities to save lives on the ground.
“At this difficult time, the European Union offers its full support to the Lebanese people. As an immediate first response, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism was activated at the request of the Lebanese authorities” Janez Lenarčič, EU Crisis Management Commissioner
The Netherlands, Greece and the Czech Republic have already confirmed their participation in this critical operation. France, Poland and Germany have also offered to help through the mechanism and other Member States can provide support.
The EU has also activated its Copernicus satellite mapping system to help the Lebanese authorities assess the extent of the damage.
The commissioner said, “We express our solidarity with Lebanon and the Lebanese people and we are ready to mobilise additional aid.”
Meanwhile, on Thursday morning, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke on the phone with Hassan Diab, Prime Minister of Lebanon.
She expressed the EU’s condolences and support to the people of Lebanon “in the face of the devastating catastrophe.”
A Commission spokesman told this site the two discussed the assistance that the EU is already providing.
“She [von der Leyen] highlighted that the Commission stood ready to explore how to boost our trade relations in this challenging time, in particular in the form of further preferential trade and customs facilitation” European Commission spokesman
Added to these efforts, the Commission, he said, is mobilising over €33m for first emergency needs, medical support and equipment, and protection of critical infrastructure.
“They also discussed the longer-term support the EU can provide to help the country’s reconstruction process. The Commission President highlighted the possible mobilisation of experts and equipment to help assess the extent of damage and handle hazardous substances like asbestos and other chemicals.”
He added, “She highlighted that the Commission stood ready to explore how to boost our trade relations in this challenging time, in particular in the form of further preferential trade and customs facilitation.”
Von der Leyen, he said, “stressed that the European Union attaches great importance to the unity and stability of Lebanon, which are all the more important today, both internally and for the region.”
The Lebanese President Aoun declared three days of mourning which started on Wednesday. Opening an emergency cabinet meeting, he said, “No words can describe the horror that has hit Beirut last night, turning it into a disaster-stricken city.”
“Amid last night's smoke, flames and destruction, I would like to laud the zeal of the Lebanese who rushed to the blast location and perimeter and the hospitals to offer support and assistance,” he added.
The head of Lebanon's Red Cross, George Kettani, described it as a “huge catastrophe”, adding, “There are victims and casualties everywhere.”