A city of shattered glass: Beirut reeling after massive explosion

A city of shattered glass: Beirut reeling after massive explosion
A city of shattered glass: Beirut reeling after massive explosion

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Even for a city as used to war as Beirut, the devastation wrought on Tuesday afternoon was staggering.

In a moment, the blast ripped through the city, killing scores, wounding hundreds and seemingly smashing every pane of glass in Beirut.

Even by foot, it was hard to walk through the streets.

Everywhere was covered in shards of glass, the streets filled with destroyed cars, toppled trees, rubble and even a collapsed house.

Nothing about Tuesday afternoon’s huge explosion at Beirut port is clear except for the scale of the devastation.

For kilometres around the seafront, homes are damaged and destroyed.

Wounded people covered in blood walked the streets, unsure what to do or where to go. The wail of ambulance sirens echoed through the choked roads.

Michael Aoun, a 24-year-old doctor, was at home when the blast ripped through. He grabbed his medical box and ran out the door, he said as he knelt down to tend to the dozens of cuts across Marie, 86.

No one seemed to be able to quite believe the scale of the explosion that, in a matter of minutes, upended the city.

But despite the destruction, Beirutis came out to help each other through yet another national crisis.

At any time, a disaster of this scale would be crushing, but Lebanon is grappling with the worst economic crisis in its history, a growing rubbish crisis, rising unemployment and poverty and – on top of everything else– a spike in Covid-19 cases.

The government is already struggling to handle the myriad crises it was juggling without adding another.

Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud on the scene of the explosion broke down crying as he said at least 10 fighter fighters sent to tackle the first blaze had simply disappeared without a trace.

“I have not witnessed so much destruction in my life… it's similar to what happened in Japan, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” he said. “This is a national catastrophe.”

Even as the sky darkened to night, the black smoke still rose from Beirut port as helicopters dropped water from overhead and firemen on the ground sprayed the site of the blast with hoses.

Shopkeepers sat on the curbside opposite, looking at their shattered businesses, combing through the rubble of their livelihoods.

Faris, a man in his 60s, was already starting to clean up his shattered shop.

Despite the destruction around him, he maintained the calm Lebanese resolve so famous in the face of any crisis.

“We're used to this,” he said. “It’s the tenth time we've been bombed, it started with the Germans in 1948.”

Updated: August 4, 2020 10:59 PM

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