Confused, devastating, disastrous: these are some of the words used by residents of Beirut and surrounding areas to describe a massive explosion that ravaged the Lebanese capital, killing dozens and injuring thousands more.
The Beirut port explosion on Tuesday was felt throughout the city and beyond, causing widespread damage and causing panic. Authorities launched an investigation to determine what was the cause.
Al Jazeera spoke with survivors and witnesses in the aftermath of the explosion. Here’s what they had to say.
‘I can’t believe I’m still alive’
“I was a few meters from the electricity establishment in Lebanon, which is parallel to the port”, Nada Hamza, a resident of Beirut, said.
“I got out of my car, I fled to the entrance of one of the buildings, then I realized that the building was destroyed. Then I tried to call my parents, but I couldn’t reach anyone, ”she added.
“I can’t believe I’m still alive. “
‘It was very massive’
Nasser Yassin, associate professor at the American University of Beirut, was outside Beirut at the time of the explosion, but felt like “nearby”.
“We were shaken up,” he added.
“It was very huge, I didn’t see that [before], I lived the civil war in Lebanon, the Israeli invasion… but this is the biggest explosion that has occurred in Lebanon to my experience and knowledge.
“We don’t yet know what happened, but it will be huge in Beirut. “
‘Devastation beyond description’
Mohamed Khalifeh, a former health minister who rushed to a hospital to help treat the injured, said he was at home at the time of the explosion.
“I shouted to my family to be careful, there is an earthquake – and immediately everything collapsed,” he recalls.
“I narrowly escaped that; I left my family and jumped to the hospital to save lives.
“We are in a very bad economic situation, [there is a shortage of] medical supplies, shortage of everything, we manage to cope, but the devastation is beyond description. “
‘It was a disaster’
Khaled Hamade, a former army general, said he was about one kilometer (0.6 miles) from the site of the blast.
“It was a disaster,” he said. “There was broken glass all over the streets, and you see lots and lots of injured people all over the streets,” Hamade added.
” All [made me remember] on the last day of the civil war in Beirut. ”
‘People are going to sleep without windows’
Habib Battah, journalist and founder of the news site beirutreport.com, called the incident a “natural disaster” because it caused extensive damage well beyond the site of the explosion.
“I have friends who live 10-15 minutes away and have shown me that their whole house is destroyed. I wonder how people are going to sleep tonight without windows, ”he said.
“This country is not prepared for disasters,” Battah added. “We have always lived in fear of a major disaster. A natural disaster, an earthquake… this country has no emergency preparedness and no response. There are barely enough police to control the highways which are extremely dangerous. Nowhere will you find the government trying to put regulations and safety for its citizens – so there are no highway patrols, no building fire inspections. “
‘The glass cut me off’
A man covered in blood said he did not fully understand what had happened.
“I don’t know what happened,” he says. “I was fishing, I heard there was a fire, so I started to go home, then I heard something explode, and then it happened, I hurt myself c is all I know.
Another injured, whose face was also covered in blood, said: “My car was there and it rolled over. I think my injuries are from the glass. The glass cut me. “
‘Youssef, daddy is in heaven’
At the Hôtel-Dieu hospital, itself damaged by the explosion, dozens of people trying to enter were invited to go elsewhere.
“It’s a disaster, a disaster,” said one incredulous man.
In the crowded hall, a family learned that their relative had died. A young woman bent down in anguish, opened her arms to a toddler and said “Youssef, papa is in paradise”. An old man fell to his knees and hit the ground again and again.
‘The ship is totally destroyed’
Several people aboard an Italian ship moored near the site of the explosion, the Orient Queen, were injured and taken to hospital.
“The ship is totally destroyed – the cabins, the saloon, everything,” said Vincenco Orlandini, a 69-year-old crew member.
“I heard the explosion, and I flew away from the hall, then I landed on the mat, and I’m lucky, I think it saved me.” ”
Additional reporting by Timour Azhari and Zeina Khodr in Beirut