Beirut Explosion Videos Capture Terror, Destruction of Massive Blast

Tuesday's explosion in the port of Beirut has left Lebanon reeling, with rescuers working round the clock to find people trapped in the rubble as authorities try to understand the vast scale of the disaster.

Lebanon was already struggling with a deepening economic crisis which has prompted hyperinflation and the shortage of basic goods, a political crisis which has left the government directionless and divided, and a coronavirus pandemic that has crippled the already struggling economy and continues to spread through the population.

The huge explosion—believed to be an industrial accident involving ammonium nitrate rather than any kind of attack, despite President Donald Trump's unsupported claim to the contrary—has devastated the city and exacerbated the country's myriad of problems.

The international community is mobilizing to support Beirut and Lebanon, though the short-term foreign aid will not address the systemic corruption and apathy that seemingly allowed the tragedy to occur and has produced such hardship for the young nation.

Within minutes of the explosion, social media was awash with footage of the disaster. The initial fire prompted many bystanders to record and photograph the port, capturing the white smoke billowing up over the city as what appeared to be fireworks—though involvement of fireworks has been denied by security chief Abbas Ibrahim—exploded at ground level.

Another video of the explosion at Beirut Port #إنفجار_بيروت pic.twitter.com/mg2BQ0uj3u

— Mohammad Hijazi (@mhijazi) August 4, 2020

It appears the fire eventually spread to Hanger 12, where some 2,750 tons of explosive ammonium nitrate—used as a fertilizer but also in mining and more nefariously in homemade bombs—had been stored for several years.

The fertilizer was confiscated from a Russian-owned tanker in 2013, and remained at the port despite repeated warnings by customs officials of the danger.

Footage from close to the port showed the hanger exploding, a huge cloud of fire, debris and reddish smoke—possibly related to the ammonium nitrate—blown into the air, with the powerful shockwave visible as it caused condensation of the water vapor in the air.

There’s been a huge explosion in #Beirut, #Lebanon. pic.twitter.com/BxGABSrPHR

— Jake Hanrahan (@Jake_Hanrahan) August 4, 2020

Videos taken from buildings around the port captured the panic of those caught in the blast, several of whom appear to have been knocked over and injured—possibly even killed—in the explosion. Sounds of smashing glass can also be heard, with windows across the city blown out by the shockwave.

Videos showed daily life thrown into chaos by the sudden tragedy. One person captured the explosion from a boat sailing past the port, while footage taken inside a church showed a service interrupted by flying glass and a collapsing ceiling.

#Beirut few minutes ago.. pic.twitter.com/L4abNmLnhT

— Majd Fahd 🇸🇾 (@Syria_Protector) August 4, 2020

Moment of #Beirut port explosion during a mass broadcasted online (due to covid-19 situation).
This is what Apocalypse looks like! pic.twitter.com/CUvZYSgsKi

— Rayane Moussallem (@RioMoussallem) August 4, 2020

A wedding video shoot quickly turned from joy to horror as the shockwave buffeted the bride and photographer.

#BeirutExplosion In the middle of a wedding video shoot.#Lebanon#PrayForLebanon #Beirut pic.twitter.com/SaSBvH8HKl

— Nizaam Mohammed (@MohdNizaa) August 4, 2020

At least 100 people were killed by the blast, with rescue teams now working to recover bodies and free those trapped in the rubble around the port. More than 4,000 people have been injured, with reports of hospitals themselves being too badly damaged to treat casualties.

Footage of downtown Beirut following the explosion was more akin to a war zone than the bustling, cosmopolitan city that was once known as "The Paris of the Middle East." Dazed and bleeding Beirutis made their way through streets scattered with debris as rescuers did their best to attend the wounded.

Beirut downtown is like a war zone after the explosions. Al Arabiya footage pic.twitter.com/9RwM1UIOkW

— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) August 4, 2020

The port sits close to the densely-populated city, and the shockwave tore through commercial and residential areas causing enormous damage. Some 250,000 people have been made homeless, according to Beirut governor Marwan Abboud, and that the damage could cost up to $5 billion.

Beirut, Lebanon, port, explosion, damage, videos, footage
An aerial view shows the massive damage done to Beirut port's grain silos and the area around it on August 5, 2020, one day after a blast tore through the harbour in the heart of the Lebanese capital. -/AFP via Getty Images/Getty