The Latest: French investigators seeking Beirut blast clues

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BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the explosion in Beirut (all times local):

12:10 p.m.

A team of 22 French investigators has started work in Beirut to search for evidence and bodies from Tuesday’s deadly explosion and help Lebanese authorities determine what caused it.

Based on information from Lebanon so far, France’s No. 2 forensic police official Dominique Abbenanti says the explosion “appears to be an accident” but that it’s too early to say for sure.

In an interview with The Associated Press, he predicted that “the death toll will grow” as more bodies are found.

French investigators are involved at the request of Lebanon, and also because one French person died and at least 40 were injured.

Eric Berot, chief of a unit involved in the investigation, says the zone the investigators cover “is enormous. It’s a titanic job.”

He says the investigation is complicated by the huge scale of the damage and “the Lebanese situation,” referring to the political and economic crisis in the country before the explosion.

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11:15 am.

Rescue teams are searching the rubble of Beirut’s port for bodies, nearly three days after a massive explosion sent a wave of destruction through Lebanon’s capital, killing nearly 150 people and wounding thousands.

French and Russian rescue teams with dogs are searching the area, and at least three more bodies were recovered in the last 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 149.

The government has launched an investigation as it faces mounting criticism, with many Lebanese blaming the catastrophe on negligence and corruption.

The blast was apparently caused by the ignition of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a chemical used for explosives and fertilizer, that had been stored at the port since being confiscated from an impounded cargo ship in 2013.

The blast shredded a large grain silo, devastated neighborhoods near the port and left several city blocks littered with glass and rubble.

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