BEIRUT (AP) – As black smoke billowed into the sky, Shiva Carrot walked out of her gym with her colleagues and clients to watch them. His gym, Barbell House, sits right off the coastal highway from Beirut Harbor, where a fire is raging. They were curious.
Then the first boom shook them, and curiosity turned to fear of realizing how close they were. “We got a little scared and we all went back inside,” Carrot said. Tense moments passed, waiting inside, and one of his clients panicked and ran outside. Carote followed.
That was when hell broke out. A giant explosion threw a high mushroom cloud and sucked in air, and a wave of destructive energy shot through the Lebanese capital.
The force threw Carout to the ground. He was cut and bruised, his tattoos with the full arm and leg of the Hindu god Shiva, after whom he was named, pierced with tears and blood clots.
But his gym – and everyone else in it – took the brunt of the blast. He smashed windows, knocked holes in walls. The blood now stains the welcome counter. One of his clients received a serious head injury and lay in a coma in a hospital, and nearly a dozen others received moderate to serious injuries.
This blinking moment, when a strong fire on the horizon turned into an unimaginable outburst of megatonij, united Beirutis in a shared trauma and on Wednesday, a day later, they were still trying with it and its consequences.,,
In many videos posted on social media, whether shot from high balconies or nearby streets, the instantaneous blows with the same dull force: Rising black smoke, then a sudden freight train of dust and pink smoke billowing through the city in front of the camera, and he sends it – and whoever holds it – disintegrates among the wreckage and confusion.
As the initial excess smoke rose on Tuesday afternoon, a team of 10 firefighters rushed to the port of Beirut to put out the fire raging in Warehouse 12, a row of warehouses by the water’s edge next to the port’s large grain silo.
“They came down, thinking it was caused by fireworks,” said a firefighter named Freddie about his colleagues, who were the first to respond. He asked to be identified only by his name so that he could speak freely to the Associated Press about the events that are still being investigated. Appearances and lightning ignited smoke and it was reported that the initial fire ignited a fireworks hideout.
The team was at the epicenter when, around 6:05 p.m., a giant explosion blew up a crater in the harbor and turned every building around it into twisted metal. He is under investigation whether the fire affected a load of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate – a highly explosive component of fertilizers – which has been stored there since 2013.
Your browser does not support
iframe HTML tag. Try seeing this in a modern browser like Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Internet Explorer 9 or later.
Freddie and the second team of firefighters arrived about 20 minutes later. They took part of the port. For the next 24 hours, they pulled out bodies – Freddie said he found 10 – but only one of their fellow firefighters, Sahar.
“We were looking for our friends, but there were also a lot of dead people,” he said, standing on the main road covered in soot, his face darkening with dust, smoke and grief. “There is complete destruction inside. Nothing is where it should be. “
His eyes met with tears at the thought of losing his colleagues and his city. Lebanon is used to destruction, but not like that. “No house on the coast has been damaged,” he said.
At least 130 people have been killed and more than 5,000 injured, and elegant stone buildings, trendy shopping districts and long stretches of the famous sea promenade have been reduced to rubble. in the event of an explosion.
On Wednesday, Beirutis searched for missing relatives and bandaged their wounds. They examined the damaged homes, assessing whether they could stay in them, extracting what possessions they could and looking for places to spend the night.
“We don’t deserve this,” said Riva Baltagi, 23, who helped friends extract valuables from their demolished homes.
The sound of ambulance sirens and the shattering of broken glass could be heard everywhere. Furniture and pillows were scattered on the streets, covered with debris. The elevators were deployed from their shafts. The cars were crushed under the weight of debris.
Some of the worst damage was in the leafy neighborhoods of Mar Michael and Jemayse in eastern Beirut, where the blast damaged some of the few historic buildings that survived the 1975-1990 civil war. Balconies had fallen to street level where bars and restaurants were buried. and the chairs and tables were turned upside down.
The stench of alcohol from broken bottles filled some narrow alleys, as if the late-night parties in the neighborhood had turned bad. Nuns toured the churches in the streets, offering prayers and help. Supermarket owners have filled plastic bags with the few remaining products in good shape – one says they will take what is left at home to use before it rots in the summer heat.
“I have nowhere to go,” a woman said as she cried in the rest of her home in Jemaise. “What should I do?” he shouted into his cell phone.
Throughout the night, radio presenters read the names of missing or wounded people. An Instagram page called “Finding Victims in Beirut” appeared with photos of missing people. Another account helped connect newcomers with hotels and homeowners who were willing to accept them.
Hospitals already battling the financial crisis and the coronavirus pandemic have been overwhelmed by the wave of casualties. Many patients had to be treated in corridors and car parks once the wards were full.
Carout, the gym’s owner, said the “complete mess” followed the initial shock of the blast. Three hospitals in the area were in orbit at the time of the blast and were decommissioned, unable to offer treatment. Others could not help. “They are not equipped for such things,” he said. “We are not equipped.”
Now he mourns the fate of Barbell. The blast destroyed what he said was the result of years of “really hard work.”
“Who will pay for this?” he said. “That can’t be fixed.”
“Beirut is no more.”
Associated Press screenwriter Aya Batravi contributed to this report from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.