BEIRUT – At one of the entrances to the port of Beirut, a 20-year-old woman runs screaming the name of her brother. His name is Jad and his eyes are green, she says looking haggard. In vain. The security forces are forbidding passage.
A few meters away, another panicked woman looks for her brother. But in the look, little hope, after the violent and deadly explosions that left 73 dead and 3,700 injured, causing unprecedented damage throughout the capital, traumatizing the inhabitants.
For more than three hours, the ambulance crossover continues at an incessant pace, accompanied by the howl of sirens, vehicles entering the disaster area to leave loaded with victims.
In the epicenter of the explosion, an apocalyptic landscape: the containers look like twisted tin cans, their contents spilled on the ground. Throbbing flames and clouds of black smoke rise into the sky, which army helicopters unsuccessfully attempt to extinguish with water collected from the sea.
Moored in front of the port, a ship is devoured by fire while security guards on the quay fear that its fuel tanks may explode.
Three hours after the disaster, a body still lies on the ground. Next door, an intact suitcase.
The floor is littered with suitcases, glasses, shoes, but also bags of imported crisps, files and papers from neighboring offices, blown away by the explosion.
A few tens of meters away, imported cars follow one another in compact rows. All damaged by the explosion, which had them as if out of whack: the headlights flashed and the vehicle alarms accompanied the howl of the sirens.
The face crestfallen, some firefighters on the spot are looking for colleagues who were busy extinguishing a fire started just before the massive explosion, according to one of them.
Rescuers, supported by security agents, look for survivors or the dead trapped under the rubble.
One of them launches to the journalists: “What are you filming? There are shredded bodies everywhere!”
Nearby, security guards transport the lifeless body of a comrade. One of them bursts into tears. Another, almost in denial, takes out his phone to show off the photo of the deceased. “Here he is at his wedding”.
Among the injured are Syrian and Egyptian members of the crews of ships that arrived at the port on Tuesday, including one from Ukraine and carrying wheat to Syria.
“We have been waiting for the moment of our return to Syria for six months. We are 13 young men. Seven of us were injured,” said one of them.
Another mentions a crack in the hull of his ship, the Mero Star. “The ship sinks. With the explosion there were serious injuries on board.”
In all districts of the capital without exception, even in the suburbs, AFP correspondents could see the damage caused by the blasts that shook the city and caused panic on café terraces.
In buildings, residents inspected the damage – apartment windows were blown, store windows exploded, littering sidewalks and streets with broken glass. Several hospitals in the city were overtaken by the injured who poured in.
On Lebanese TV, journalists dispatched to saturated hospitals tirelessly recite names. These are the missing, their families have asked them to make an appeal in the hope of finding them.