Beirut resident Hoda Melki captured a touching video of her mother playing the piano amongst the debris of her damaged apartment on Wednesday, a day after a major blast tore through the Lebanese capital.
The explosion on Tuesday killed at least 135 people, injured 5,000 and pushed up to 250,000 out of their homes after the shockwaves ripped out doors and shattered windows miles inland.
The death toll is expected to rise. Officials blamed the blast on a huge stockpile of highly explosive material stored for years in unsafe conditions at the port.
The performance of traditional Scottish folk song Auld Lang Syne quickly went viral as it brought hope to Lebanon's capital, a city still scarred by civil war that ended three decades ago and reeling from an economic meltdown and a surge in coronavirus infections.
On Wednesday, Beirutis searched for missing relatives and bandaged their wounds. They surveyed damaged homes, assessing if they could stay in them, retrieving what possessions they could and searching out places to stay.
“We don’t deserve this,” said Riwa Baltagi, a 23-year-old who was helping friends retrieve valuables from their demolished homes.
The sound of ambulance sirens and the crunching of broken glass could be heard everywhere. Furniture and cushions were strewn along streets covered with wreckage. Elevators were dislocated from their shafts. Cars were crushed under the weight of debris.
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Some of the worst damage was in the leafy neighborhoods of Mar Mikhael and Gemayzeh in east Beirut, where the blast damaged some of the few historic buildings that survived the 1975-1990 civil war. Balconies had dropped to street level, where bars and restaurants were buried and chairs and tables turned upside down.
The stench of alcohol from broken bottles filled some narrow alleys, as if the neighborhood’s late night parties had turned bad. Nuns toured the churches along the streets, offering prayers and help. Supermarket owners filled plastic bags with the few remaining products in good shape— one saying he will take what is left home to use before it rots in the summer heat.
“I have nowhere to go,” a woman said as she wept in what remained of her home in Gemayzeh. “What am I supposed to do?” she screamed into her mobile phone.
Throughout the night, radio presenters read the names of missing or wounded people. An Instagram page called “Locating Victims Beirut” sprung up with photos of missing people. Another account helped to connect the newly displaced with hotels and homeowners who were willing to host them.
Hospitals, already struggling with the financial crisis and coronavirus pandemic, were overwhelmed by the wave of injured. Many patients had to be treated in hallways and parking lots once the wards filled up.