Photo: Reuters. Ammonium nitrate explosions can give off toxic red gas.
A CNN producer in Beirut has described the “chaotic scene,” in the emergency room of one Beirut’s hospitals, with doctors conducting triage as they try to treat dozens of people injured in Tuesday’s explosion.“Some people had broken limbs, some showered with glass,” Ghazi Balkiz said.

“I walked in, I saw a few people lying on the floor — doctors trying to put IVs into them. A couple of people were passed out,” he added.

Hundreds of people are still missing. “This is clearly a very significant explosion, and the reported number of deaths is likely to be far higher than currently identified,” said David Caldicott, a senior clinical lecturer in medicine at the Australian National University.

Dr Paul Gardner-Stephen, a disaster expert at Flinders University in Australia said: “”Where the health system  is already strained, this leaves the population particularly vulnerable to tragic events such as this, as the system has little or no spare capacity to respond.

“The sad result is that lives that could have otherwise been saved will be lost.”

“Preparation is always much cheaper than response, if we can find ways to afford it.”

Explosions have rocked Lebanon’s capital Beirut Tuesday, killing at least 78 people, injuring thousands more, and sending an enormous blast wave across the city that shattered windows, knocked down doors and shook buildings.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, said the main blast at Beirut’s port was caused when an estimated 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate ignited. He said the chemical had been left unsecured for six years in a warehouse, and vowed to punish those responsible.