Beirut explosion: “Trees in my street were ripped from the ground”
The Red Cross has launched a recovery response after a massive explosion in the Lebanese capital of Beirut. One Red Cross delegate, who lives in the city, describes the situation on the ground today
The Lebanese capital, Beirut, is reeling from a massive explosion that ripped through the city on 4 August. The blast devastated the Port of Beirut and has killed more than 100 people, with thousands more injured and many more left homeless. These numbers are, sadly, expected to rise.
The Lebanese Red Cross is operating search and rescue efforts, setting up blood donation locations, and performing first aid and triage on critical and non-critical injuries. Seventy-five Red Cross ambulances were immediately deployed to help, with 375 paramedics attending scenes across the city.
The British Red Cross has launched the Beirut Emergency Appeal to help save more lives.
“All you could hear were screams and the sound of cascading glass and falling metal”
Jeremy is a Red Cross delegate for the Middle East and North Africa region, based in Beirut. His home is just 300 metres from the site of the explosion and was badly damaged by the shockwave. Fortunately, he was not at home at the time.
“I had popped down to the shops to get some things for dinner and was driving when it happened,” said Jeremy. “My car was between two tall buildings and glass, metal bars, and debris were falling all around. One smashed through the driver side window as I was sheltering in the car. The dust made the whole street almost black and all you could hear were screams and the sound of cascading glass and falling metal.”
TREES IN MY STREET WERE RIPPED FROM THE GROUND AND WHOLE PORTIONS OF BUILDINGS... WERE MISSING.
When Jeremy returned home, he found that almost everything in his apartment had been destroyed.
“Trees in my street were ripped from the ground and whole portions of buildings near the epicentre are missing,” he said. “The road was buried in about an inch of glass and building debris was everywhere."
Sadly, one of the buildings damaged includes a hospital, which has had to turn away people seeking help. Other hospitals in the city – already overburdened by the coronavirus pandemic – have been overwhelmed by people needing urgent medical attention.
Since the explosion, Jeremy has been helping others and supporting the Lebanese Red Cross in its response. “There were elderly and less mobile people still in my building when I managed to get there and our neighbours and people from the street were working together to bring them down to the street and take them to a hospital,” he said.
Red Cross volunteers on the streets to help
Today, he is helping to begin the clean-up process, the start of a long road ahead. Lebanon was already facing several crises before the explosion. Instead of entering complete lockdown on 6 August in a scheduled effort to halt the spread of Covid-19, a two-week state of emergency has now been declared.
“Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees per capita, has been impacted by the Syrian war, is suffering through an economic collapse, where prices of basic necessities have increased 70 per cent, and the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Jeremy. "There have been armies of Lebanese Red Cross volunteers and others on the streets handing out water, sweeping rubble, checking buildings to make sure no one is trapped."
The immediate focus is on saving lives and reuniting families. But the impact of the explosion will be felt for a long time to come, as lives are rebuilt from what is left behind.