Watching the sun rise quietly in the Beirut sky on Wednesday morning, you could almost believe that the disaster that destroyed much of the capital the day before was just a horrible nightmare.
Unfortunately, walking in the streets of Beirut and its periphery is enough to measure the extent of the drama experienced the day before, and all night, by the Lebanese. Not a street, not a district has been spared by the monumental explosions that have occurred at the port of Beirut. In quick succession, they blew the entire eastern part of the capital.
“Between 250,000 and 300,000 inhabitants now homeless”
On Wednesday August 5, the governor of Beirut, Marwan Abboud, delivered an initial diagnosis of the disaster. With this estimate: “Between 250,000 and 300,000 inhabitants are now homeless”, their homes having been destroyed or severely damaged.
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Many have already spent a first night in the street, dazed, stunned, facing this umpteenth twist of fate. Hundreds of people have flocked to the city’s hospital emergency rooms for treatment or to inquire about loved ones in serious condition.
Wednesday morning, the time was rather to the inventory. Three private hospitals located in the area bordering the port suffered heavy damage preventing their operation. We would have to pay “Several million dollars each” to rehabilitate them, according to the president of the private hospital union, Sleiman Haroun.
“The hospitals are saturated, even if we were able to manage the situation by transferring patients to other regions”, explains the latter, who is already worried about the risk of shortage of the most basic medical devices such as suture kits or bandages: “We used all our stocks, what was at the port went up in smoke. We don’t need field hospitals, we need equipment. “
Apartments without windows or balconies
In the streets of the Christian quarter of Achrafieh, the scarred facades bear witness to the violence of the explosions. Almost all of the store windows collapsed to the ground, blown away by the power of the explosions. Some shops have tried to deal with the most urgent to protect their merchandise, lowering the grid as best they can, or hanging a makeshift canvas to hide it from view. A large supermarket, since night, has been trying to erase the damage, while an ice cream parlor, now open to all winds, has seen its storefront vanish.
Apartment buildings were not spared, revealing apartments without windows or balconies, their curtains hanging miserably in the air. Cars lie parked, the roof and windshield shattered by shards of glass, stones or metal bars fallen from the balconies. On the sidewalks, the piles of broken glass that glisten in the August sun began to be swept away, in an attempt to erase the nightmare of the day before.
The east of the capital is just a ghost town
” Such a waste ! “exclaims Tony, in his thirties, as he bustles around his damaged grocery store. “With what money do you want me to repair?” The economic crisis, the coronavirus, and now this! We will never end in this country ”, he launches, bitter, while trying, in vain, to straighten shelves twisted by the shock.
The city center, the districts with traditional architecture of Gemmayzé and Mar Mikhael, the Quarantine, the regions closest to the port, are devastated, almost wiped off the map. The army and security forces lock the area, which is still dangerous. The east of the capital is nothing more than a ghost town.
Along the motorway adjoining the port area, the huge office towers with glass facades only miraculously hold onto their metal skeleton. An almost identical spectacle for tens of kilometers around.
A pungent odor, probably toxic, that burns the throat
In the areas near the port there is a pungent odor, probably toxic, which burns the throat. If for the moment, the authorities have not really communicated on the possible impact of the explosion of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, many Lebanese are wondering. “What are we breathing?” Nobody tells us anything, but seeing the color of the explosion, we have reason to be worried! “, says Mirna, who lives on the outskirts of the capital.
“From the start, we should have had a press release on the toxicity of the fumes, plague Georges Haddad, researcher and manager at the NGO Alef. The silence only causes more panic among the population, since the state, once again, is absent. “
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While the circumstances of this tragedy are not clarified, the Lebanese are already shouting their anger. “After the fear, I felt anger, because I think that what happened at the port is really due to the negligence, to the corruption of this mafia which holds Lebanon”, denounces Rita Bassil, journalist. “When some people spoke of an Israeli bombardment, I quickly dismissed this hypothesis, because it mainly meant relieving our irresponsible people in power. “
An opinion shared by Georges Haddad. The drama of the port, he points out, is “The result of thirty years of corruption”. “They (the people in charge, editor’s note) will all accuse each other, so that in the end, no one wears the hat “, he denounces, betting on a “Citizen burst”, soon. As soon as the Lebanese have recovered from the disaster a little.