Lebanese journalist describes office that shattered around him in Beirut explosion

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Hanna Anbar is used to covering up war and violence – but he says he has never seen anything like Tuesday’s massive explosion in the heart of Beirut.At least 50 people were killed and thousands more injured in the explosion in the port area of ​​the Lebanese capital. The explosion was felt across the city, destroying houses, overturning cars, shaking buildings and ripping apartment balconies.

Details on the cause of the explosion were scarce on Tuesday. The Lebanese interior minister said early reports indicated that highly explosive materials, which had been seized years ago in the city’s port area, had exploded. Lebanon-based broadcaster Mayadeen quoted the country’s customs director as saying that several tons of nitrate had exploded.

Anbar, the editor-in-chief of the English-language Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star, was in his office when the explosion struck, knocking its glass walls down on him. He spoke to As it happens guest host Susan Bonner about the explosion. Here is part of their conversation.

To begin with, how are you?

I’m fine. I mean, we were shocked today because our offices were destroyed by the explosion. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. But our offices are destroyed. So it was a miracle, really, to come out alive

Can you describe that moment when the explosion happened?

Everyone was in the office and it was about six o’clock and we were ready to send our evening news.

We are in fact 500 meters or a little more from the explosion. But we thought it was an explosion in our building because everything collapsed.

My room is made of glass so I can see people working. So he was broken. Everything came next to me and I didn’t have any shards in my body. Why I do not know.

I know you have been on the streets of Beirut for the past few hours. What did you see?

Glass everywhere, on every road. Because I’ve been on a tour to see what’s going on. Every road. Every secondary road.

Of course, the area facing the port is really devastated. There is nothing. Nothing. Every building appears to have been bombed. It is as if an earthquake has hit the country.

I have seen wars. I have covered wars in this part of the world since 1965. That was 53 years ago. And during the civil war, there were always explosions. There were car bombs. But that was the most – well, it panicked the whole country. Even in Cyprus, apparently, they heard the explosion. So you can imagine what happened.

Hospitals are at full capacity and are treating some of the minor injuries on balconies or on hospital side roads.

An injured man is treated after the devastating explosion in Beirut. (Daniel Carde / Getty Images)

It seems that there were two explosions and there are so many explanations, theories as to what caused them. Some say it’s a fireworks factory fire. Some people wonder if this was the explosion of an explosives cache that was confiscated by the government years ago. What is the most credible explanation, in your opinion?

The most credible thing is that five tons of nitric acid were stored there.

Everyone is talking about fireworks, which is a joke. You know, if there is fireworks, maybe there is fireworks next to this warehouse. But basically, the big explosion is serious and it is certainly not fireworks.

But what we’re trying to find out, is there a report that says what’s in this warehouse? There should be a connection somewhere … and that will solve a lot of problems.

Until then, there is so much speculation, as you know. Some say Israeli rockets. Some say it was by mistake. Some say it is sabotage. So, to be honest with you, all of these conspiracy theories are out there. But to be honest, I really don’t know, and I don’t think until there is an investigation … nobody can tell you exactly what was in that warehouse, why it happened. past and who did it and who was. it was an accident or was it sabotage.

So that’s the situation in a nutshell.

A photo shows the scene of an explosion in Beirut on Tuesday. (Anwar Amro / AFP / Getty Images)

There is COVID. There is economic chaos. Lebanon has been through so much. How are people going to deal with this now on top of all of this?

I really have no description for it. The country is really down, down, down every day. The wages of people who are still working – because you have hundreds of thousands who already have no work – but the people who are still working, who receive a salary, because of the devaluation of the Lebanese pound, the wages are 10% what it was last year.

Don’t ask me why, how they survive. But if this situation continues by the end of the year, the poverty line will be truly devastating in this country.

Firefighters spray water on a blaze after the explosion in Beirut. (Mohamed Azakir / Reuters)

And you say that in a city that has just been devastated by this explosion.

The economy is completely at a standstill. You see, we don’t have a lot of resources. We rely on tourism. We rely on foreign investment. We are counting on construction. We rely on import and export. You know, these are the factors that make the money in this country.

We have dozens of first class hotels. We have hundreds of restaurants. And all of this is not working at the moment. And you can imagine how many people are involved in these establishments who have nothing to do at the moment.

Your question, how are people doing, is really, really a very serious problem. And we don’t know how long we will be able to cope with this situation. We cannot make plans for tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.

We make plans day after day. And we don’t know where we’re going. Honestly, we don’t know where we are going.


Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Reuters. Interview conducted by Chloe Shantz-Hilkes. The questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.



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