"Really heartbreaking to watch what happened in Beirut. Thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this devastating explosion."
As the devastation from Tuesday’s massive explosion became clearer Wednesday, people around the world expressed solidarity with Beirut as it faces crises of hunger, homelessness, and injury from the destructive blast that leveled the port area of the Lebanese city.
“They say the blast in Beirut was felt in all of Lebanon and even across the water in Cyprus—we certainly felt it in our hearts here in Michigan’s 13th District,” tweeted Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) also expressed sympathies on Twitter, sending the city her “deepest condolences and solidarity.”
Sending my deepest condolences and solidarity to all those impacted by the blast in Beirut.
Praying for the people of Lebanon
— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) August 4, 2020
“Beirut is one of my favorite cities in this world. And the Lebanese people are some of the best I’ve ever met,” said journalist Karen Attiah. “They deserve so much more than all of this.”
Journalist Rania Khalek, who lives in the city, tweeted that the level of destruction was incomprehensible.
“There are no words to describe the scope of destruction in Beirut,” said Khalek.
“This was an entire city destroyed in a few minutes,” she added. “The suffering and misery is unfathomable.”
I went around Beirut today after the blast. The damage is shocking. Every single residential building, every shop, every hotel, every restaurant, almost nothing left untouched by the pressure from the blast. The streets are covered in broken glass, as if it rained shards of glass
— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) August 4, 2020
At least 100 people died from the blast and over 4,000 were wounded. Over 300,000 are homeless.
Aid efforts are underway, with Lebanon’s neighbors and nearby countries from Turkey to Israel to Iran all pledging assistance. Russia, the U.K., the U.S., and France all sent condolences and offered to help in the recovery.
Advocacy groups are calling for a concerted, international effort to aid the city in the wake of the explosion.
Help for Lebanon: read our statement issued by @AAIUSA @ATFLebanon calling for immediate support from World Food Org, UN, EU, & USAID. & we list groups where individual donors, like you, can directly aid the Lebanese people. Please help now https://t.co/lbDd3UR6sw
— James J. Zogby (@jjz1600) August 4, 2020
On the ground, aid groups and medical professionals are doing all they can to find survivors and care for the wounded.
As the New York Times reported:
The Lebanese Red Cross raced to set up temporary shelters with food, hygiene kits and basic needs to house up to 1,000 families who lost their homes, although that will only be enough to help a small fraction of the estimated 300,000 people who were displaced by the blast.
The blast shook the city Tuesday after 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive material that was impounded by authorities in 2014, reportedly exploded.
This is a photo of the Rhosus taken on 19 April 2014, just a few months before it was impounded at Beruit.
It gives you an idea of the size/bulk of the Ammonium Nitrate that exploded yesterday. pic.twitter.com/mD4g6Re6Jc
— David Videcette (@DavidVidecette) August 5, 2020
Questions around why the deadly chemical was left to languish in the port for six years abounded Wednesday as the Lebanese government sought answers and put a number of officials under house arrest while an investigation got underway.
BREAKING: Lebanon is putting unspecified number of Beirut port officials under house arrest after a huge explosion killed more than 100 people. The move comes amid speculation that negligence was to blame for the blast that devastated the Lebanese capital. https://t.co/KbUN57ftPS
— The Associated Press (@AP) August 5, 2020
According to the Associated Press:
An official letter surfaced online showing that the head of the customs department had warned repeatedly over the years that a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate stored in a hangar in the port was a danger and asked for a way to remove it.
Ammonium nitrate is a component of fertilizer that is potentially explosive. The 2,750-ton cargo had been stored at the port since it was confiscated from a ship in 2013, and on Tuesday it is believed to have detonated after a fire broke out nearby.
Beirut residents blamed what they described as a corrupt, careless government for the explosion.
“They are so irresponsible that they ended up destroying Beirut,” a schoolteacher named Sana told AP.
Images and video from Beirut showed the devastation in the Lebanese city.
“The scale of the destruction by any standard is more than an earthquake,” former Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told The National.