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Beirut blast – an eyewitness account from a Tearfund staff member

Tearfund | 05 Aug 2020

Sunset over Beirut

‘I was on the phone to my wife when I felt the ground shake like an earthquake. Then – “BAM!” – there was a massive explosion,’ says Jaime Abraham, who works in Tearfund’s Middle East team and was in Beirut at the time. 

The Lebanese capital had just experienced a huge explosion. It happened in the port area of the city on Tuesday, at around 6pm local time.

‘Before I could even speak to my wife, the shockwave nearly pushed me out of my chair. 

‘My first thought was that it was a bomb. But when I ran outside to look, all I could see was this massive plume of orange smoke. It looked more like a volcano erupted, so I thought it must be something else.

‘I immediately ran to check on our neighbours. Many of them had their windows and doors blown out, so I knew it was huge.’

‘Heartbreaking’
The latest update from Lebanon’s health minister says 137 people have been killed and an estimated 5,000 injured. At least 250,000 people have been made homeless by the blast.

‘People living in Lebanon have already been through so much.'
Jaime Abraham

Around 1.5 million refugees call Lebanon home, many of them living in makeshift housing in Beirut’s slums. Tearfund and our partners have been providing support for people dealing with trauma who fled the conflict in Syria. It is this kind of work that is likely to be even more important in the coming weeks and months.

‘This is just heartbreaking,’ continues Jaime. ‘People living in Lebanon have already been through so much, and much of the infrastructure was already hanging on by a thread with the pressure of coronavirus 

‘Some of the key hospitals were in the vicinity of the blast and are damaged. They were already stretched… and now with thousands upon thousands injured they cannot cope. 

‘I’ve spoken to friends whose injured relatives were turned away from a number of hospitals before they finally found someone who could help them.’

Vital support
Beirut's port is a lifeline for the country, but was so damaged by the blast that it can no longer be used. Many jobs and businesses depended on it – and have now been left in ruins. A lot of the country’s grain supplies were kept at the port and have also been destroyed, potentially accelerating a food crisis that had already been building.

Tearfund works with three partner organisations in the city. One partner runs the Manara Youth Centre – a drop-in centre for young people in one of the areas worst hit by the explosion.

The mental health work the centre does will be vital in the aftermath of the blast – many of the communities it serves have already been through a lot of trauma, and the explosion may have triggered very painful memories. 

PLEASE PRAY

Tearfund

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