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Beirut in mourning: the days after.

EN - Friday, 07 August 2020

The extent of our action for the survivors of the explosion depends on your help. Wait no longer, save lives.

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“I wonder how many more times a country can die before it no longer exists. "

Beyrouth explosion homme blessé

Tuesday, August 4, it is 5.15 p.m. in Beirut when a gigantic mushroom of smoke followed by a thunderous detonation shakes the capital and its millions of inhabitants. We barely have time to question ourselves: a military exercise? A natural phenomenon? But quickly the windows of the buildings are blown, then the explosion, deafening sounds.

"I just thought that death was coming and that there was nothing I could do to escape it," Madeline L’Hermitte told the Ouest France newspaper.

Beyrouth explosion enfant blesséWithin a radius of ten kilometers, Beirut is nothing but devastation and ruins, evoking for many a new Hiroshima. The neighbourhoods near the port were destroyed: Armenia street, Geitaoui, Bourj Hammoud… Everywhere, buildings were devastated, shop entrances blown away and apartments laid bare, no more windows, doors and sometimes walls.

In the first minutes after the disaster, it is terrifying. Disoriented and injured, their faces swollen, the Lebanese extricate themselves from the rubble and carcasses of cars. Opaque pink and blue smoke then black emerge from the clusters of charred buildings. The sirens are ringing at all costs, increasing the anxiety-provoking intensity of the apocalyptic scene. The women are screaming.

Beirut disembowelled counts its dead. At the bend of a devastated street, we are already talking about a severe death toll: ten dead, hundreds injured. But when we know the population density of the capital, when we see the intensity of the explosion, we unfortunately imagine that we are heading towards a much higher number of victims. The bodies are found one by one in the rubble. The results double in 3 days.

Young Sahar Fares, 25, a firefighter in Beirut, died trying to control the first flames. She was supposed to get married next year. A funeral ceremony, attended by musicians and a large crowd, was held in her home village in Kaa, a village where members of SOS Chrétiens d'Orient are present.

Beyrouth explosion soignantsIt was also while doing their duty, saving lives, that four nurses at St. George's Hospital lost their lives. This modern university hospital, adjoining a beautiful Greek Orthodox church in the Geitaoui district, has been devastated. Still fresh blood stains colour the sidewalks of the main street of the Geitaoui district, east of Beirut. Mixed with broken glass, bloody cloths and soiled gloves litter the ground, testifying the nightmare that residents of this rather modest neighbourhood have plunged into in the space of a few minutes.

Hospitals already weakened by the economic crisis and the outbreak of coronavirus cases are saturated. There are 5,000 injured. The "less urgent" cases are sometimes forced to tour hospitals before being treated. This is the case of this woman injured by a shard of glass planted in her shoulder. The emergency services give priority to treating the injured who require an absolute emergency response. The emergency services are still looking for hundreds of the missing and are doing their best to find as many people as possible. We notably saw a man, carried on a stretcher by rescuers, applauded by the crowd, he spent more than ten hours under the rubble.

300,000 inhabitants of Beirut have lost their homes. Some have managed to find accommodation with friends and family. Managers of hotels, closed in this period of crisis, have reopened their doors to welcome the homeless. While the geopolitical situation is extremely tense, that Lebanon is undergoing daily international pressure and violations of its territory, this new disaster is a chopper.

“We have seen events follow one another: the economic crisis has rolled us over, then COVID-19 brought us to our knees. A few months ago, we wondered with humour what the coup de grace could be. A meteorite? Here it is now: we are dead,” says Georges Yared, a resident of Beirut.

"And I wonder how many more times a country can die before it no longer exists?”, Said Georges Yared, with infinite sadness in his voice.

An attack? negligence? Awfully expensive if it is! 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, or 600 tons of TNT, a highly explosive fertilizer, had been stored for 6 years in the port of Beirut, close to homes.

How to explain their storage so close to homes? Why the explosion? We will look for the answers later. For now, the emergency is to rescue, clear the rubble, and then rebuild.

Beyrouth explosion détresseFor the past two days, Beirut residents have their feet in the rubble. Some barely heal their wounds, others clean the devastated neighbourhoods as if to make this tragic event forget as quickly as possible.

But in horror, Lebanon is not alone. All over the world, all eyes are on the Levant. When the monuments of Dubai, Egypt, and Tel Aviv light up in the colours of Lebanon, the Eiffel Tower is extinguished in mourning. Many countries send health workers, medical equipment, and field hospitals. Reinforcements from Kuwait, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Egypt, Greece, and Qatar are already there in the aftermath of the tragedy.

A few hours after the explosion, while the port was on fire, 55 French civil security soldiers took theirPyramids light up Lebanon flag final orders in the Roissy airport terminal. On the tarmac, in columns, they leave with dogs to find the wounded or bodies and medical equipment to help local hospitals.

image 2020 08 07 13 10 55On Thursday August 6, the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, visited the site. We knew the Lebanese were upset by the situation. In the streets, they did not hesitate to express their fed up with him. Some, out of pure provocation towards local politicians, perhaps, even ask France to recreate a mandate in the East and to manage the affairs of Lebanon.

To which the President of the Republic replies: "After having seen, heard and listened today to the looks and voices of our Lebanese brothers, [I want] to tell you how much I feel an infinite sadness, a deep solidarity and share the healthy anger that we have seen express itself today. (...) Our destinies are knotted. (...) Our destinies are inextricably linked by the bonds of time, of the spirit, of the soul, of culture, of dreams, on this day of mourning, in Beirut a thousand times dead, a thousand times relived. [...] It is also the heart of France that is struck."

France will not abandon the Lebanese. Next Thursday, the Tonnerre amphibious helicopter carrier will bringimage 2020 08 07 13 11 31 medicine, medical staff, and equipment.

Despite the shock and the pain of the events, the Lebanese do not despair, and they know it, they will rise stronger than ever. For that, they need you, your prayers, your support, your donations.

SOS Chrétiens d’Orient responds to the Lebanese call for help. Food donations are the absolute urgency, because many people have lost their homes and find themselves unemployed because many company or business headquarters have been destroyed, not to mention the reserves lost in the port fire ...

We have planned a regular assistance plan for 1,500 families, with a daily food package at 21 euros.

We will cooperate with the Lebanese NGO Nawraj, which provides us with a room of 300 m2 to store food and carry out distributions.

Our teams will quickly go to Beirut, taking the necessary precautions against Covid 19, to launch the emergency plan.

The extent of our action for the survivors of the explosion depends on your help. Wait no longer, save lives.

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