“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.
Tuesday’s headlines reported that the Lebanese capital experienced a huge explosion in the port area of the city.
“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 neighbors. Many of them had their windows and doors blown out, so I knew it was huge.”
The latest update from Lebanon’s health minister says 78 people have been killed and an estimated 4,000 injured. At least 250,000 people have been made homeless by the blast.
“People living in Lebanon have already been through so much.”
Around 1.5 million refugees call Lebanon home, many of them living in makeshift housing in Beirut’s slums. Before the explosion, Tearfund has been working with partners in the area, providing trauma counseling for people who fled the conflict in Syria. This kind of work will 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.”
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 organizations in the city. One partner runs the Manara Youth Centre – a drop-in center for young people in one of the areas worst hit by the explosion.
The mental health work the center 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.
• Pray for people who have been wounded, and those who have lost loved ones.
• Lift up in prayer the emergency services as they work to find people trapped after the blast; and for hospitals who are struggling to cope with the high number of casualties.
• Please also pray for our partner organizations to know how best to serve their communities and recover from this disaster.