Residents of Beirut, Lebanon, face a scene of utter devastation. On Tuesday, a massive explosion sent shock waves across the Lebanese capital. It blasted through a city port, killing at least 100 people and wounding thousands.
Glass and rubble cover city streets. A towering grain silo complex is half destroyed. Smoke billows as mounds of wheat spill out. Damaged vehicles and debris litter downtown. The Lebanese Red Cross reports that the explosion wounded more than 4,000 people.
The blast struck Beirut with the force of an earthquake. It was the most powerful explosion ever seen in the city. No one knows for certain yet what caused it. There is no evidence that the explosion was an attack. But it is clear that the blast was caused by the detonation of more than 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate. The chemical compound was confiscated from a cargo ship in 2013. It had remained in storage in a port warehouse ever since.
Lebanon was already on the brink of collapse. The country faces a severe economic crisis. Damage from the explosion only amplifies the issue. Lebanon’s healthcare system is overwhelmed by the coronavirus. Hospitals were flooded with people—even before the massive calamity struck. Reports say that a major private hospital in Beirut suffered significant damage in the explosion.
Now housing needs are added to Beirut’s challenges. The blast severely damaged numerous apartment buildings, rendering scores of people homeless. Civil defense workers and soldiers are trying to locate missing people and clear rubble.
In a televised speech, Prime Minister Hassan Diab asked for international aid. He said, “We are witnessing a real catastrophe.”
Lebanon is a tiny country, already pushed to its limits. The country hosts over one million Syrian refugees. Food security is an issue. Around 80% of the country’s wheat supply is imported, according to the United States Agriculture Department. Now, much of that grain is gone. Most of the country’s grain was stored at the now-destroyed silos. Wheat that didn’t spill in the explosion is contaminated. It cannot be used.
Lebanon’s major port—needed for bringing in necessary supplies and food—is ruined. Its people are hurting. May they cry out to God, who promises to meet every need and “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)
(Destroyed silos sit in rubble after an explosion at the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, on Wednesday, August 5, 2020. AP Photo/Hussein Malla)