August 5, 2020

The death toll is rising after a huge explosion rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut, John Berman reports.

CNN's senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman reported live from Beirut this morning.

"Well, I'm just going to step aside and let you see, there are volunteer teams going around this neighborhood, which is severely damaged by the blast, and we are in front of a building where I think almost every window was blown out," Wedeman said.

"So ordinary people are doing what they can to put their country, their city back together. In the meantime, of course, there's rising controversy about what happened just a few minutes after 6:00 p.m. local time. We understand there were 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate in that warehouse that blew up. A chemical compound that is highly explosive and was kept in that warehouse apparently for 6 or 7 years after being seized from a ship that entered Beirut's port.

"Now, whether it was incompetence, corruption, or something else that explains why this very dangerous chemical compound was kept in a port that's very near to the center of town and in very populated areas is not at all clear, but certainly, there is a lot of anger among ordinary Beirut residents who want to know why that massive explosion went off, basically in the middle of their city last night."

"Also breaking this morning, pushback from the Pentagon following President Trump's statement that that the Beirut explosion was an attack. So let's go live right now to the Pentagon and CNN's Ryan Brown. So what are they saying at the Pentagon about this?" Alysin Camerota asked.

"Alisyn, officially, Pentagon officials are referring all comments about this to the White House. They obviously didn't want to comment on President Trump's statement that the U.S. military's assessment that this was some kind of attack," Brown said.

"However, defense officials are telling CNN anonymously that this actually was -- there are no indications that this was an attack. In fact, all initial reporting suggested that this was some kind of accident. You know, there's been no adjustment to U.S. military activities in the region. There's been no increases in force protection, things of that nature, the kind of things you would typically see in the wake of an attack or if there had been any intelligence indicating an attack."

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