An explosion ripped through a building in southern Lebanon early on Tuesday, killing one person and wounding several others, a Lebanese security official said.
The blast in the town of Banaafoul, near the port city of Sidon, demolished the two-floor building that had served as the local municipality headquarters and a scout center for the Amal Movement headed by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.
According to the security official, the dead person was the son of the town’s mayor, both of whom belong to Amal. Five people were injured, the official said, revising his earlier figure of seven wounded.
Citing “preliminary information,” the Amal Movement said in an official statement that an “electric short circuit” led to a fire that resulted in the explosion of oxygen canisters that had been stored in the building during the Covid-19 crisis.
The blast also caused material damage to nearby buildings and cars.
The security official had said that the explosion may have been caused by diesel fuel stored inside the building.
Other unconfirmed reports said the building contained a weapons cache. Army personnel sealed off the building as they searched through the rubble for clues and casualties. MTV meanwhile reported an altercation between army troops and Amal members in the wake of the blast.
Online videos showed a fire ripping through the building prior to the explosion. Witnesses also confirmed that they saw flames and heard sounds resembling fireworks before the blast.
Samira Mustafa, whose nearby house received some damage, said she saw smoke and the sound of popping before the explosion.
“I ran as stones fell on my head,” she said as she sat with neighbors on Tuesday morning, discussing the incident.
Such mysterious explosions are not uncommon in Lebanon, particularly in the country's south, awash with weapons.
Late last year, arms stored for the Palestinian Hamas group exploded in a building in a Palestinian refugee camp in the south Lebanon port city of Tyre, injuring a dozen people. Hamas denied it had kept weapons there and said the explosion was caused by oxygen tanks stored in the building.