Eye witness: Beirut explosion plunges Lebanon deeper into crisis

The massive explosion at Beirut port destroyed warehouses where essential supplies, including food and grains destined for the whole country, were being stored

Already facing a terrible economic crisis aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, this is yet another tragedy that strikes the already very weakened Lebanese population.

Patricia Khoder, who works for CARE in Lebanon, sent this report in the aftermath of the explosion. All photos by CARE staff on the ground in Beirut.

There are hundreds of missing people, their relatives are looking for them everywhere in vain. And then there is the blood, the blood on the clothes of people who have been injured and are trying to leave their homes [which are] too damaged to be able to spend the night there. With their bags on their backs, they roam the streets waiting for a member of their family to come and pick them up.

People walk through debris from the explosion, on a Beirut street at night
People walking along a street strewn with debris the night after the explosion (image taken from a smartphone video)

From the city centre to the East Beirut neighbourhoods of Gemmayze to Mar Mikhael via Saifi and the port, there are only the skeletons of concrete or steel buildings, the rest has been shattered. In some places, the steel structure has melted. A destruction worthy of a fictional film.

Damaged buildings and roads at Beirut port
Devastation and damage at Beirut port, as the fire from the explosion continues to smoulder in the background

There is nothing left of my city, Beirut, except its inhabitants, who have learned to survive, to make a living, to be resilient.

But faced with the scale of the situation, resilience will not be enough, we need help.

People survey the damage on a Beirut street at night
People survey the damage on a street strewn with debris from the explosion

For several months, the country has suffered from a serious economic crisis, and while half of the population are living in poverty and encounter difficulties in feeding themselves, this disaster threatens to further darken the picture: the port of Beirut, beyond its economic importance, houses the majority of the country’s food reserves.

It is also the main point of entry for aid for Syria. The disaster destroyed an estimated 85% of the food stored at the port – which will have a massive impact on the 1.1. million refugees living in Lebanon who fled war in Syria.

Damaged buildings at Beirut port (video still)
Buildings at Beirut port flattened by the blast from the explosion (image taken from a smartphone video)

In addition, hospitals that were tending to coronavirus patients are now overwhelmed with those who have been injured, while some hospital buildings have been damaged or destroyed by the explosion. Thousands of families have also been left homeless by severe damage to their homes.

Damaged building and car in a street in Beirut
The blast blew out windows across the city (image taken from a smartphone video)
Debris and damage to buildings and cars in Beirut
Debris scattered across a side street in Beirut (image taken from a smartphone video)

Bujar Hoxha, director of CARE in Lebanon, says:

We already thought we were going through the worst and yet… It’s a real nightmare. Beirut, already on the brink of the abyss, apparently found it on August 4th.

With the crisis, we were already struggling to cope with the scale of humanitarian needs, but following the explosion, hundreds of thousands of people lost everything and will need our help. CARE teams are hard at work to meet the most urgent needs – shelter, food – and support reconstruction efforts.

But to help as many people as possible, we need your support. Your donation can save lives.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.