Chain reaction: disaster hastens Lebanon’s moment of reckoningAugust 9, 2020
A corruption-riddled government has presided over rising poverty for decades. Could the anger released after the catastrophe in Beirut’s docks finally topple it?
The first violent jolt seemed like a neighbourhood accident; a blown generator, or a car crash. Five seconds later, the thundering secondary blast arrived; a crushing surge of energy that instantly sucked the air out of the city, then plunged it back with devastating weight. Giant shards of debris blew through rooms, door frames collapsed and furniture became missiles – all in what seemed like a paralysing slow motion.
A deathly still followed, and then came a cascade of shattered glass from what appeared to be every home, or tower block; hundreds of thousands of panes and pieces falling to earth at once. Many who survived the blast wave did not live beyond the seconds that followed. Days later, giant pools and trails of blood littered pavements and roads, each telling their own tale of life or death in Beirut’s apocalypse. When the glass stopped falling, the screaming started. A yellow pall of dust, smoke and chemicals shrouded the eastern suburbs.