Beirut, Lebanon (CNN)It’s an earthquake, I thought, as the CNN bureau in central Beirut shook Tuesday with a violence I’d never felt before. I crouched down on the floor, waiting for more tremors.

A split second later, I heard glass shatter and the crunch of metal. Peering through the window, I saw a cloud of yellow dust coming toward me, the street strewn with rubble and broken glass. People were running around and shouting, trying to understand what had happened. I stumbled around the rest of the bureau. A window frame had been torn from the wall. The studio was a jumble of equipment, cables were scattered all over, but the tripod with its camera was still in place on the floor.The bureau’s glass entrance, with its big, red CNN logo, lay shattered in the corridor.A few minutes later, a doorman named Mustafa, a lanky, normally good-spirited chap, came running in. “Are you ok?” he shouted. “Is everyone fine?” Read More”I’m fine,” I responded. Nothing had happened to me.”Thank God,” he said, and continued running down the corridor to search for others. The building had long been quiet since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.A helicopter fights a fire at the scene of an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday, August 4.A helicopter fights a fire at the scene of an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday, August 4. Photos: Huge explosion rocks BeirutA helicopter fights a fire at the scene of an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday, August 4.Hide Caption 1 of 22Rescue crews search a street for survivors  on Tuesday night. "People are asking the emergency department about their loved ones, and it is difficult to search at night because there is no electricity," Health Minister Hamad Hassan <a href="https://www.cnn.com/middleeast/live-news/lebanon-beirut-explosion-live-updates-dle-intl/h_191ad60f239ae9b49e4332022ce8db8c" target="_blank">told the Reuters news agency.</a> "We are facing a real catastrophe and need time to assess the extent of damages."Rescue crews search a street for survivors  on Tuesday night. "People are asking the emergency department about their loved ones, and it is difficult to search at night because there is no electricity," Health Minister Hamad Hassan <a href="https://www.cnn.com/middleeast/live-news/lebanon-beirut-explosion-live-updates-dle-intl/h_191ad60f239ae9b49e4332022ce8db8c" target="_blank">told the Reuters news agency.</a> "We are facing a real catastrophe and need time to assess the extent of damages." Photos: Huge explosion rocks BeirutRescue crews search a street for survivors on Tuesday night. “People are asking the emergency department about their loved ones, and it is difficult to search at night because there is no electricity,” Health Minister Hamad Hassan told the Reuters news agency. “We are facing a real catastrophe and need time to assess the extent of damages.”Hide Caption 2 of 22A wounded man is helped as he walks through debris following the explosion.A wounded man is helped as he walks through debris following the explosion. Photos: Huge explosion rocks BeirutA wounded man is helped as he walks through debris following the explosion.Hide Caption 3 of 22Smoke rises after the blast. This image was obtained from a video on social media.Smoke rises after the blast. This image was obtained from a video on social media. Photos: Huge explosion rocks BeirutSmoke rises after the blast. This image was obtained from a video on social media.Hide Caption 4 of 22Lebanese Red Cross officers carry an injured woman on Tuesday night.Lebanese Red Cross officers carry an injured woman on Tuesday night. Photos: Huge explosion rocks BeirutLebanese Red Cross officers carry an injured woman on Tuesday night.Hide Caption 5 of 22A building's facade is shattered after Tuesday's explosion.A building's facade is shattered after Tuesday's explosion. Photos: Huge explosion rocks BeirutA building’s facade is shattered after Tuesday’s explosion.Hide Caption 6 of 22Wounded people wait to received help outside a hospital. Emergency wards have been inundated.Wounded people wait to received help outside a hospital. Emergency wards have been inundated. Photos: Huge explosion rocks BeirutWounded people wait to received help outside a hospital. Emergency wards have been inundated.Hide Caption 7 of 22An investigation into the explosion was announced by Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab.An investigation into the explosion was announced by Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab. Photos: Huge explosion rocks BeirutAn investigation into the explosion was announced by Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab.Hide Caption 8 of 22People run for cover following the explosion. Bachar Ghattas, an eyewitness, described scenes of chaos: "You can see injured people all over the streets in Beirut, glass all over the place, cars are damaged. It is like an apocalypse."People run for cover following the explosion. Bachar Ghattas, an eyewitness, described scenes of chaos: "You can see injured people all over the streets in Beirut, glass all over the place, cars are damaged. It is like an apocalypse." Photos: Huge explosion rocks BeirutPeople run for cover following the explosion. Bachar Ghattas, an eyewitness, described scenes of chaos: “You can see injured people all over the streets in Beirut, glass all over the place, cars are damaged. It is like an apocalypse.”Hide Caption 9 of 22Injured people sit on a street after the blast.Injured people sit on a street after the blast. Photos: Huge explosion rocks BeirutInjured people sit on a street after the blast.Hide Caption 10 of 22Lebanese soldiers watch as a helicopter fights a fire at the scene of the explosion.Lebanese soldiers watch as a helicopter fights a fire at the scene of the explosion. Photos: Huge explosion rocks BeirutLebanese soldiers watch as a helicopter fights a fire at the scene of the explosion.Hide Caption 11 of 22A man sits near the site of the blast.A man sits near the site of the blast. Photos: Huge explosion rocks BeirutA man sits near the site of the blast.Hide Caption 12 of 22Firefighters work at the scene on Tuesday.Firefighters work at the scene on Tuesday. Photos: Huge explosion rocks BeirutFirefighters work at the scene on Tuesday.Hide Caption 13 of 22A wounded person is carried after the blast.A wounded person is carried after the blast. Photos: Huge explosion rocks BeirutA wounded person is carried after the blast.Hide Caption 14 of 22The explosion was near the port in the Lebanese capital.The explosion was near the port in the Lebanese capital. Photos: Huge explosion rocks BeirutThe explosion was near the port in the Lebanese capital.Hide Caption 15 of 22Smoke billows following the explosion.Smoke billows following the explosion. Photos: Huge explosion rocks BeirutSmoke billows following the explosion.Hide Caption 16 of 22A wounded man walks near the scene.A wounded man walks near the scene. Photos: Huge explosion rocks BeirutA wounded man walks near the scene.Hide Caption 17 of 22People gather by damaged buildings after the blast.People gather by damaged buildings after the blast. Photos: Huge explosion rocks BeirutPeople gather by damaged buildings after the blast.Hide Caption 18 of 22Firefighters use a water hose on flaming debris.Firefighters use a water hose on flaming debris. Photos: Huge explosion rocks BeirutFirefighters use a water hose on flaming debris.Hide Caption 19 of 22Red smoke rises after the explosion, which could be felt for miles. "What I felt was that it was an earthquake," Beirut resident Rania Masri told CNN.Red smoke rises after the explosion, which could be felt for miles. "What I felt was that it was an earthquake," Beirut resident Rania Masri told CNN. Photos: Huge explosion rocks BeirutRed smoke rises after the explosion, which could be felt for miles. “What I felt was that it was an earthquake,” Beirut resident Rania Masri told CNN.Hide Caption 20 of 22People walk near the scene of the explosion.People walk near the scene of the explosion. Photos: Huge explosion rocks BeirutPeople walk near the scene of the explosion.Hide Caption 21 of 22A man reacts at the scene soon after the explosion.A man reacts at the scene soon after the explosion. Photos: Huge explosion rocks BeirutA man reacts at the scene soon after the explosion.Hide Caption 22 of 2226 beirut explosion 080429 beirut explosion 080425 beirut explosion 080409 beirut explosion 080430 beirut explosion 080421 beirut explosion 0804 RESTRICTED22 beirut explosion 080418 beirut explosion 080412 beirut explosion 080431 beirut explosion 0804 RESTRICTED16 beirut explosion 080424 beirut explosion 0804 RESTRICTED14 beirut explosion 080419 beirut explosion 080427 beirut explosion 080406 beirut explosion 080403 beirut explosion 0804RESTRICTED 07 beirut explosion 080411 beirut explosion 080415 beirut explosion 080405 beirut explosion 080413 beirut explosion 0804As I surveyed the damage, I began calling friends and colleagues. Three minutes after the blast, I got through to CNN producer Ghazi Balkiz. “I’m fine,” he said, and the line went dead. I called our cameraman, Richard Harlow. His phone was dead. I called again, and again. A friend who lives near me in the Manara neighborhood, about two kilometers (1.2 miles) away, called me. “What happened?” she demanded, her voice full of panic. I told her all I knew — that there had been a fire in the port and then the blast. Lebanon, a country I’ve lived in for the last three years but have been in and out for years, and where I was in boarding school when the civil war broke out in April 1975, is a place where dramatic events happen sometimes, it seems, out of the blue. And on this hot and humid Tuesday, it seemed like just another August evening until hell suddenly shattered the calm. It wasn’t long before I was inundated with requests to explain what was going on to CNN viewers, but without a cameraman I had to report what I had seen and learned by phone. Richard, the cameraman, still wasn’t answering the phone. Fear gripped me that he, like so many others on this day, had been injured, or worse. Finally a colleague got through to him. The blast had thrown Richard from his scooter, I was told, and he had injured his hand. “Prepare the medical kit,” my colleague instructed me. He showed up at the office with a deep gash on his hand. I sprinkled the wound with disinfectant powder, wrapped it up and told him to get to a hospital, while I continued to report on the phone. But he insisted on setting up the camera. Within minutes, we had a live picture from the bureau. Dumpster diving, blackouts and suicides. Lebanon's woes laid bare as crisis deepens  Dumpster diving, blackouts and suicides. Lebanon's woes laid bare as crisis deepens  Dumpster diving, blackouts and suicides. Lebanon's woes laid bare as crisis deepens All the while, the information coming in became grimmer and grimmer. First, 10 dead, then dozens more. Hundreds, then thousands wounded.”I lived through the civil war, I lived through the (1982) Israeli invasion, the 2006 (Lebanon-Israel) war,” a friend told me over the phone, “but never, never have I seen an explosion like this,” she said. It was the refrain I’d hear from one person after another. “We’re living a curse,” another friend told me. And it was hard to disagree. Lebanon’s economy is in a state of collapse. The local currency has lost much of its value. Prices of food and other basic goods have increased 50% every month for the last three months. Unemployment has skyrocketed. It has become a common sight to see people, even the elderly, rummaging through the rubbish, searching for food. 'If your child is hungry, you will eat your rulers to feed your children''If your child is hungry, you will eat your rulers to feed your children''If your child is hungry, you will eat your rulers to feed your children'Added to these woes, Covid-19 cases have almost tripled since the beginning of July, and, until this blast, the country was in a partial lockdown to try to stop the spread. But this evening, all these woes faded into the background as Beirut residents called frantically around to find missing relatives, flocked to hospitals to donate blood, surveyed the latest damage to their battered lives, and wondered why fate had yet again subjected them to another cruel blow.

Source Link:
https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/04/middleeast/wedeman-beirut-explosion-intl-hnk/index.html

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