The massive explosions rocked the downtown business district near the port area of Beirut.
Trigger warning: Distressing images and videos
There are few moments in modern history that have left people unable to articulate the destruction they saw. The explosions in Beirut, Lebanon at 6 pm local time on Tuesday, August 4, 2020, are one of those moments. At least 137 people died and almost 5,000 others were wounded (at the time of publication) in the explosions that are being chalked up to the tonnes of stored ammonium nitrate in the port region of the city.
The downtown business district was ravaged by the blasts, which could have been due to some 2,750 tonnes of confiscated ammonium nitrate what was stored in a warehouse at the port for six years, as per AlJazeera. The series of blasts were captured on videos, that have been shared on social media extensively. The government in Lebanon has declared a two-week state of emergency in the capital city, handing control of security in Beirut to the military.
The shockwaves were felt across the city and the damage has been widespread. The death toll is expected to rise as emergency workers look for survivors in the rubble. Beirut's city governor Marwan Abboud revealed that almost 300,000 people lost their homes and the administration is working to provide them with food, water, and shelter. As the city tries to come back to life slowly, people are growing angry there since there is evidence that officials knew about the confiscated chemicals being stored in the port region.
Close up footage of what happened in Beirut yesterday.— Ian56 (@Ian56789) August 5, 2020
You can hear jets flying overhead, which sound like warplanes, just before the big explosion.
It hasn't been released until now, because it was found on someone's smartphone who died.#BeirutBlastpic.twitter.com/gOcpTv01Ug
The blast, that looked like a nuclear attack as plumes of smoke rose up into the sky, was so powerful it was felt more than 150 miles away in Cyprus, as per New York Times. The blasts caused a docked passenger ship to capsize, shattered windows for miles away, and it shook the earth as strongly as a 3.3-magnitude earthquake.
"What we are witnessing is a huge catastrophe," the head of Lebanon’s Red Cross, George Kettani, told the Beirut-based news network Al Mayadeen, as per New York Times. "There are victims and casualties everywhere."
"I was afraid the baby was hurt"— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) August 5, 2020
Edmond's wife was in labour when the Beirut blast devastated the hospital, covering her in glass. He was filming at the time
Their son, George, arrived shortly after. He and mum are doing well
Warning: Upsetting imageshttps://t.co/e2PProbmpi pic.twitter.com/TVokcVf40c
Even electricity was out in most of the city and massive aid work is required to help the victims. "We need everything to hospitalize the victims, and there is an acute shortage of everything," the health minister, Hamad Hassan, told Lebanese media.
Beirut explosion filmed from car pic.twitter.com/5jGlgc9POO— Banana for Scale 🍌📏 (@scale_banana) August 5, 2020
One wedding videographer who was shooting a video for a bride on the streets of Beirut captured the heart-stopping moment as well. "The area I was in -- within matter of seconds -- it went from beautiful place to ghost town filled with dust, shattered glass and people yelling [and] bleeding," said the groom, Dr. Israa Seblani, to CNN. "It was like a nightmare scene."
WATCH: This Lebanese wedding photographer captured a bride and groom getting married just as a massive explosion rocked #Beirut.— Bloomberg QuickTake (@QuickTake) August 5, 2020
The couple were unharmed in the blast and took refuge in a house before continuing their ceremony pic.twitter.com/0bMtt2OWC7
In moments of such senseless destruction, there was a moment of hope when a grandmother, who was saved as she was not at home when the blast shattered her house, started playing Auld Lang Syne on her piano. It was a wedding gift from her father and survived the blasts.
"She pushed through the pain and tried to have a few moments of peace," said her granddaughter, May-Lee Melki to CNN.
Ordinary heroes rose to the occasion during this harrowing time. One nurse is being hailed for saving the lives of three newborns at a hospital that was impacted by the blasts.