Beirut’s day of destruction: Explosion lays waste to Lebanese capital

Bloodied, dazed and weeping residents wandered through Beirut into the night, surveying the devastation around them. Fifteen years of civil war had numbed them to blast damage, but even they had seen nothing like this.

The explosion that destroyed the city’s port yesterday also laid waste to homes, shopping centres, hotels and businesses throughout surrounding suburbs.

At the city’s airport, part of the roof collapsed. That was six miles away.

Beirut’s governor, Marwan Abboud, broke into tears as he toured the blast site. ‘Beirut is a devastated city,’ he said.

Marwan Ramadan was 500 yards away from the port but was still blown off his feet by the blast. ‘It was a real horror show,’ he said. ‘I haven’t seen anything like that since the days of the war.’

People on the street in Beirue which is strewn with debris from damaged buildings following the explosion

People on the street in Beirue which is strewn with debris from damaged buildings following the explosion

People on the street in Beirue which is strewn with debris from damaged buildings following the explosion

A man reacts at the scene of an explosion at the port in Lebanon's capital Beirut on August 4

A man reacts at the scene of an explosion at the port in Lebanon's capital Beirut on August 4

A man reacts at the scene of an explosion at the port in Lebanon’s capital Beirut on August 4

A huge explosion rocked the Lebanese capital Beirut, wounding dozens of people, shaking buildings and sending huge plumes of smoke billowing into the sky

A huge explosion rocked the Lebanese capital Beirut, wounding dozens of people, shaking buildings and sending huge plumes of smoke billowing into the sky

A huge explosion rocked the Lebanese capital Beirut, wounding dozens of people, shaking buildings and sending huge plumes of smoke billowing into the sky

Entire buildings were razed to rubble in Beirut yesterday after a chemical explosion punched through the city and wreaked devastation for miles

Entire buildings were razed to rubble in Beirut yesterday after a chemical explosion punched through the city and wreaked devastation for miles

Entire buildings were razed to rubble in Beirut yesterday after a chemical explosion punched through the city and wreaked devastation for miles 

A large explosion rocked the Lebanese capital Beirut today. The blast, which rattled entire buildings and broke glass, was felt in several parts of the city

A large explosion rocked the Lebanese capital Beirut today. The blast, which rattled entire buildings and broke glass, was felt in several parts of the city

A large explosion rocked the Lebanese capital Beirut today. The blast, which rattled entire buildings and broke glass, was felt in several parts of the city

Sombering scenes showed citizens in despair as their homes were damaged, with walls blown through and windows shattered

Sombering scenes showed citizens in despair as their homes were damaged, with walls blown through and windows shattered

Sombering scenes showed citizens in despair as their homes were damaged, with walls blown through and windows shattered

A view of damages at a house in Burj Abu Haidar area in Beirut

A view of damages at a house in Burj Abu Haidar area in Beirut

Paola Rebeiz  was watching television when a blast in central Beirut hit her home in St Nicolas, around a kilometre south of the site of the explosion, shattering all of her windows

Paola Rebeiz  was watching television when a blast in central Beirut hit her home in St Nicolas, around a kilometre south of the site of the explosion, shattering all of her windows

The blast inflicted severe damage to people’s homes. Paola Rebeiz was watching television when a blast in central Beirut hit her home in St Nicolas, around a kilometre south of the site of the explosion, shattering all of her windows (right)

A view shows the damages entrance of a store in Burj Abu Haidar area in Beirut

A view shows the damages entrance of a store in Burj Abu Haidar area in Beirut

A view shows the damages entrance of a store in Burj Abu Haidar area in Beirut

Glass is shattered by the explosion at the Cavalier Hotel in Beirut following the explosion

Glass is shattered by the explosion at the Cavalier Hotel in Beirut following the explosion

Glass is shattered by the explosion at the Cavalier Hotel in Beirut following the explosion 

A mobile phone image showing a general view of the harbor area with smoke billowing from an area of a large exoplosion, with damage and debris after a large explosion rocked the harbor area of Beirut

A mobile phone image showing a general view of the harbor area with smoke billowing from an area of a large exoplosion, with damage and debris after a large explosion rocked the harbor area of Beirut

A mobile phone image showing a general view of the harbor area with smoke billowing from an area of a large exoplosion, with damage and debris after a large explosion rocked the harbor area of Beirut

It lay waste to the immediate surrounding buildings, where firefighters were still battling flames this evening, and even wreaked havoc on districts miles away from the blast site

It lay waste to the immediate surrounding buildings, where firefighters were still battling flames this evening, and even wreaked havoc on districts miles away from the blast site

It lay waste to the immediate surrounding buildings, where firefighters were still battling flames this evening, and even wreaked havoc on districts miles away from the blast site

Fires burning at the port on Beirut well into the night following an explosion, believed to be from chemicals

Fires burning at the port on Beirut well into the night following an explosion, believed to be from chemicals

Fires burning at the port on Beirut well into the night following an explosion, believed to be from chemicals 

Smoke billows at the site of the large explosion and buildings are reduced to twisted wreckages

Smoke billows at the site of the large explosion and buildings are reduced to twisted wreckages

Smoke billows at the site of the large explosion and buildings are reduced to twisted wreckages 

The blast ripped through buildings and blew bricks out of walls and brought them crashing down on to the street.

The blast ripped through buildings and blew bricks out of walls and brought them crashing down on to the street.

The blast ripped through buildings and blew bricks out of walls and brought them crashing down on to the street. 

Dramatic footage shows smoke billowing from the port area shortly before an enormous fireball explodes into the sky and blankets the city in a thick mushroom cloud

Dramatic footage shows smoke billowing from the port area shortly before an enormous fireball explodes into the sky and blankets the city in a thick mushroom cloud

Dramatic footage on social media shows people screaming as an enormous blast rocks the waterside area of Lebanon's capital city

Dramatic footage on social media shows people screaming as an enormous blast rocks the waterside area of Lebanon's capital city

Dramatic footage shows smoke billowing from the port area shortly before an enormous fireball explodes into the sky and blankets the city in a thick mushroom cloud

People ride past a car destroyed after a building wall collapsed because of the blast which wreaked havoc for miles

People ride past a car destroyed after a building wall collapsed because of the blast which wreaked havoc for miles

People ride past a car destroyed after a building wall collapsed because of the blast which wreaked havoc for miles

Images showed port buildings reduced to tangled masonry, devastating the main entry point to a country that relies on food imports to feed its population of more than six million

Images showed port buildings reduced to tangled masonry, devastating the main entry point to a country that relies on food imports to feed its population of more than six million

 Images showed port buildings reduced to tangled masonry, devastating the main entry point to a country that relies on food imports to feed its population of more than six million

The explosion laid waste to sections of the city as Lebanon grapples with its worst economic crisis in decades

The explosion laid waste to sections of the city as Lebanon grapples with its worst economic crisis in decades

The explosion laid waste to sections of the city as Lebanon grapples with its worst economic crisis in decades

Firefighters douse a blaze at the scene of an explosion at the port of Lebanon's capital Beirut

Firefighters douse a blaze at the scene of an explosion at the port of Lebanon's capital Beirut

Firefighters douse a blaze at the scene of an explosion at the port of Lebanon’s capital Beirut

The lobby of a building overlooking the Lebanese capital Beirut's central Martyrs' Square, with rubble and debris from covering the street following massive explosions earlier at the nearby port of Beirut

The lobby of a building overlooking the Lebanese capital Beirut's central Martyrs' Square, with rubble and debris from covering the street following massive explosions earlier at the nearby port of Beirut

The lobby of a building overlooking the Lebanese capital Beirut’s central Martyrs’ Square, with rubble and debris from covering the street following massive explosions earlier at the nearby port of Beirut

Outside one hospital, Omar Kinno sat on the pavement, holding back tears. Kinno, a Syrian, said one of his sisters was killed when the blast rocked their apartment near the port, and another sister’s neck was broken. 

His injured mother and father were taken to a hospital but he didn’t know which, and he was making calls trying to track them down.

‘I have no idea what happened to my parents. I am totally lost,’ he said.

Vital infrastructure was damaged, with Roum Hospital putting out a call for generators. One medical centre received 300 emergency patients. ‘I’ve never seen this. It was horrible,’ a medic there said.

Confusion reigned across the city, as people cleared out of damaged homes or tried to locate family. Motorcyclists picked their way through traffic, carrying the injured.

Soldiers cordoned off the port last night, amid warnings that the burning chemicals could give off toxic fumes.

Regardless, relatives of the missing arrived at the perimeter.

A woman in her twenties stood screaming at security forces, asking about the fate of her brother, a port employee.

‘His name is Jad, his eyes are green,’ she pleaded, to no avail as security forces would not let her enter.

Nearby another woman almost fainted while also asking about her brother who worked at the port.

But even the security forces were not immune from emotion.

The body of one of their colleagues was brought to them on a stretcher. A fellow officer pulled out a photograph of the dead man with his fiancée, and the comrades wept.

Firefighters spray water at a fire after an explosion was heard in Beirut

Firefighters spray water at a fire after an explosion was heard in Beirut

Firefighters spray water at a fire after an explosion was heard in Beirut

A car was flung upside down by the blast which hit Beirut yesterday and caused widespread damage

A car was flung upside down by the blast which hit Beirut yesterday and caused widespread damage

A car was flung upside down by the blast which hit Beirut yesterday and caused widespread damage

There was a structure fire near the port of Beirut followed by a second massive explosion, which damaged surrounding buildings and injured thousands

There was a structure fire near the port of Beirut followed by a second massive explosion, which damaged surrounding buildings and injured thousands

There was a structure fire near the port of Beirut followed by a second massive explosion, which damaged surrounding buildings and injured thousands

Vital infrastructure such as hospitals sustained damage, as did the city's airport despite its location six miles away from the blast site, laying bare the magnitude of the trauma

Vital infrastructure such as hospitals sustained damage, as did the city's airport despite its location six miles away from the blast site, laying bare the magnitude of the trauma

Vital infrastructure such as hospitals sustained damage, as did the city’s airport despite its location six miles away from the blast site, laying bare the magnitude of the trauma

Rescue crews search a street for survivors after a large explosion caused buildings to collapse

Rescue crews search a street for survivors after a large explosion caused buildings to collapse

Rescue crews search a street for survivors after a large explosion caused buildings to collapse

In St Maron Parish, the priest was broadcasting his sermon to his congregation, as is the norm during coronavirus. An initial blast knocks out the power and the candles behind him blow out ominously – but he perseveres, unaware of what is approaching.

Seconds later the main blast wave hits, bringing stained-glass windows crashing onto the altar. As he flees, footage shows one piece of masonry smash into his back, sending him to the ground. 

But in a rare piece of positive news yesterday, locals reported he was not badly hurt.

Inside the port itself, the hangars looked like charred cans, everything destroyed beyond recognition as fire-fighting helicopters flew overhead, dumping water.

Out at sea, ships burned. The UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, UNIFIL, said one of its boats in the port was damaged and a number of its peacekeepers were injured, some seriously.

Authorities worried that fires on boats could trigger yet more explosions, or oil slicks if they sink.

‘The explosion caused an opening in it, and there are serious injuries on board,’ said one Egyptian sailor, pointing at his craft, the Mero Sar, in the harbour.

Reporters from the city’s newspaper, the Lebanon Daily Star, released footage of their own office obliterated.

Miles from the scene of the explosion, balconies were knocked down, ceiling collapsed and windows were shattered.

Even areas largely undamaged were in darkness last night, with power cuts across the city.

One woman covered in blood from the waist up walked down a devastated street while talking furiously on her phone. On another street, a woman with a bloodied face looked distraught, staggering through traffic with two friends at her side.

A young man passed by. ‘This country is cursed,’ he muttered.

Firefighters douse a blaze at the city's port tonight following the deadly explosion which has wreaked devestation on Beirut

Firefighters douse a blaze at the city's port tonight following the deadly explosion which has wreaked devestation on Beirut

Firefighters douse a blaze at the city’s port tonight following the deadly explosion which has wreaked devestation on Beirut

Pictures shows the scene of an explosion at the port in the Lebanese capital Beirut, which lay waste to surrounding buildings

Pictures shows the scene of an explosion at the port in the Lebanese capital Beirut, which lay waste to surrounding buildings

Pictures shows the scene of an explosion at the port in the Lebanese capital Beirut, which lay waste to surrounding buildings

A general view of the harbor area with smoke billowing from an area of a large explosion, with damage and debris after a large explosion rocked the harbor area of Beirut

A general view of the harbor area with smoke billowing from an area of a large explosion, with damage and debris after a large explosion rocked the harbor area of Beirut

A general view of the harbor area with smoke billowing from an area of a large explosion, with damage and debris after a large explosion rocked the harbor area of Beirut

A car if left flipped on its roof on a motorway as a result of the devastating impact of the explosion earlier today

A car if left flipped on its roof on a motorway as a result of the devastating impact of the explosion earlier today

A car if left flipped on its roof on a motorway as a result of the devastating impact of the explosion earlier today

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