Two explosions at the Port of Beirut Tuesday have devastated a nation already suffering from a failing economy, political tensions, and a surge in cases of COVID-19. The blasts leveled everything within a two-mile radius, killing over 100 people, injuring at least 4,000, and displacing an estimated 300,000. Christians in the country are requesting aid and prayer as they process their shock and grief.
“After the economic collapse and the COVID crisis, now a disaster happened due to the explosion at Beirut Port,” said Lina Sawan Raad, according to the Baptist Standard. Sawan Raad is a vice president with the Baptist World Alliance and an instructor at Lebanese International University. “Destruction all over Beirut. Please pray for mercy from above from our Lord. We believe that faithful prayer is very powerful.”
Beirut Explosions Ravage Already Hurting Country
The exact causes of the explosions are as yet unclear. The New York Times reports that the first explosion in Lebanon’s capital might have occurred at a fireworks warehouse. While gray smoke was still billowing up from that blast, a second, larger and more devastating one occurred. People heard it in Cyprus, about 100 miles away.
It is believed that the latter explosion occurred due to the combustion of a stockpile of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a chemical compound used in bombs and fertilizer. Initial reports indicate that the stockpile, which was allowed to sit at the port for six years, exploded accidentally due to negligence on the part of Lebanese authorities.
According to Reuters, Lebanon’s cabinet has placed the officials who were responsible for the stockpile under house arrest and have declared a two-week state of emergency for Beirut. Lebanon’s president Michel Aoun has promised to “investigate and expose what happened as soon as possible, to hold the responsible and the negligent accountable.”
The blasts devastated Beirut’s downtown and waterfront, as well as the surrounding neighborhoods, which are poorer, primarily Christian areas. One witness told Reuters, “I saw a fireball and smoke billowing over Beirut. People were screaming and running, bleeding. Balconies were blown off buildings. Glass in high-rise buildings shattered and fell to the street.” The death toll and the number of injured are expected to rise, but electricity is out through most of the city, making it difficult for people to search for their missing loved ones at night.
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The streets of Beirut following the massive explosion! Hundreds believed to be injured and 10 fatalities reported so far that were pulled from wreckage! #lebanon #beirut #beirutexplosion #lebanonexplosion #christian #achristianreport #christiannews #worldnews #beirutnew #seekchrist #praytothelord #seekthelord #streetsofbeirut
Beirut’s hospitals were already strained with COVID-19 patients. When the explosions occurred, some hospital buildings were so badly damaged they could not receive the injured and instead treated them in parking lots. At Bikhazi Medical Group hospital, the ceiling fell on some patients while they were waiting to be treated. Many of the wounded had to walk to hospitals themselves because ambulances could not make it through the streets.
Medical staff are treating patients in the parking area at Geitawi Hospital. #Beirut hospitals fully occupied.
Photo credits to @sewella. #Lebanon pic.twitter.com/erfCsTACAq
— Beirut.com (@BeirutCityGuide) August 4, 2020
Beirut-based sports journalist Rayane Moussallem commuted home from work after the explosions and tweeted, “I have no words to describe what I have seen on my way! Non-stop sirenes passing by, people crying in their cars which many had the glass shattered, I was driving on broken glasses of destroyed stores and buildings not asphalt!” She added, “Unfortunately in this country we have been through many explosions throughout the years. In 2005, it was our weekly life but I have never seen something like that! Never!!”
Joseph Kassab, president of the Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community in Syria and Lebanon, told Christianity Today that the devastation reminded him of Lebanon’s civil war (which he lived through). He knows of several churches that have been damaged, including Jesus Light of the World, All Saints Anglican church, and the historic National Evangelical Church. “But everyone is affected,” he said. “Catholics, Orthodox, and as you move a little further away you see the damage in Muslim neighborhoods also.”
Kassab was far enough out of the way of the explosion that his home only suffered broken windows, but his niece had cupboards fall on her in her home while she bent over to protect her two-year-old. She and her family have come to stay with Kassab because of the destruction to her apartment.
The explosions impacted other Christians and Christian buildings throughout the city. Moussallem posted a video showing one of the blasts occurring while a priest was performing a mass, which was streaming online because of COVID-19. The priest is reportedly uninjured.
Moment of #Beirut port explosion during a mass broadcasted online (due to covid-19 situation).
This is what Apocalypse looks like! pic.twitter.com/CUvZYSgsKi
— Rayane Moussallem (@RioMoussallem) August 4, 2020