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".
"I will not rest until we find the person responsible for what happened so we can hold them to account and impose the most severe punishment," Diab was quoted as saying by an official Twitter account.
"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."
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".
"What happened in Beirut port today was nothing short of criminal negligence," he said. "You can't store ammonium bitrates in hot and damp conditions for four years, it was a massive time bomb."
Local media reports indicate the chemicals were seized from a sinking ship more than a decade ago.
At least 73 people — including one Australian — have been killed and thousands have been injured, and the number of fatalities is expected to skyrocket.
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.
Tensions are so high in the Middle East that Israel immediately issued a statement saying it was not involved in the blast.
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.
Residents in Lebanon were suffering under massive inflation and struggled to buy basic goods in some areas — and that was before the pandemic hit.
The government was limiting daily electricity to just two to four hours a day and the nation's currency plunged 80 per cent.
Tensions are also high ahead of Friday's verdict in a trial over the killing of ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.