Lebanon is still reeling from Tuesdays explosion in the port of Beirut – a further tragedy on top of the severe political, economic and health crises racking the country. FRANCE 24 spoke to locals about the devastation they have encountered and the despair they are feeling.
The gigantic blasts in Beiruts port on August 4 caused monstrous destruction, apocalyptic scenes, and a heavy human toll – with at least 137 dead and around 5,000 injured, shaking Lebanon to the core.
The explosions piled a tragedy on top of crises. Lebanon is suffering from an acute economic crisis, with its currency in free fall and an accelerating poverty rate – while the Covid-19 pandemic has accentuated a healthcare crisis in the country. At the same time, successive waves of protests since 2016 have demonstrated the lack of trust in the Lebanese government – in which power has been divided on sectarian lines since the countrys 15-year civil war ended three decades ago.
“This is the last thing Lebanon needed, with the country already at the end of its tether,” said Fadi, a civil engineer who was thrown back by a metre in his flat by the blasts. “We already thought wed hit rock bottom – but now this explosions happened were wondering when things will stop getting worse.”
We didnt sleep all night
The Lebanese woke up on Wednesday morning to calamitous scenes. The damage reached a radius of several kilometres around the port, which was almost completely razed. Homes have been devastated and windows blasted out in the heart of the metropolis. Some buildings collapsed completely. “Its like an earthquake struck us,” said Beirut City Council chairman Jamal Itani.
In some hard-hit districts of Beirut – such as Achrafieh, Dora and Gemmayze (renowned for its nightlife) – the streets are littered with debris and crushed cars. The sheer extent of the destruction has revived memories of the 1975-90 civil war, which remains at the forefront of Lebanons collective memory.
“We didnt sleep all night; our home is damaged, our door and window are gone – were just crying; theres nothing else we can do,” said Maya, a Beirut lawyer. “My city – the city of my childhood and of my children – has been blown away, innocent people have died. I have never experienced such a shock, even though Ive lived through war. Beirut is destroyed, and my heart is broken.”
Many businesses were destroyed in the city centre, close to the port. The blast, described by local media as “Beirutshima,” – in a mordant reference to the 1945 nuclear bombing of Hiroshima – also damaged property in Beiruts inner suburbs, more than 10 kilometres away from the port.
Some 300,000 of the capitals 2 million residents have been made homeless thanks to the explosion, Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud said. The blast “destroyed or damaged nearly half of the city”, he added, noting that the damage could cost “between three and five billion dollars”.
Many people remain missing and rescuers are still trying to find victims amongst the debris at the port; the human toll from the blast – caused by the explosion of a warehouse containing 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, according to the authorities – risks increasing.
Hospitals in the capital – some of which were damaged by the explosion – were already under pressure because of the coronavirus and lack of equipment to tackle it due to the economic crisis. They have been forced to send many victims to hospitals in the citys suburbs and more remote areas.
“Were facing a catastrophe of exceptional magnitude for the first time in decades,” George Kettaneh, secretary-general of the Lebanese Red Cross, told FRANCE 24.
I dont see how Lebanon will be able to recover
Many Lebanese are fearful about the social and economic consequences of this tragedy, in a country with already abysmal levels of public debt – especially seeing as the port of Beirut risks being paralysed for a long while, despite being the main place of entry for a country that imports 80 percent of its goods. Flour shortages are likely to be a particular problem in the immediate future, after grain silos near the port were ruined, the UNs Food and Agriculture Organisation said.
“How are we going to live without our lost loved ones?” said Maya. “Who will repair all the damage? How will we feed ourselves?Read More – Source