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Eyewitness describes Beirut blast: 'My building started shaking kilometres away'

5 August 2020 1:21 PM
Tags:
Beirut
Beirut explosions
Beirut port

Lester Kiewit speaks to two people in Beirut Nathalie Bucher and Sana Nehmedescribe about what happened.

The explosion in the port area of Beirut on Tuesday night rocked the city and the world. The videos and images flooding social media just moments after the explosion were shocking.

The death toll has risen to 100 people, injuring 2,000 and leaving some 200,000 residents homeless.

The cause of the explosion on Tuesday night was not immediately clear but it has now been linked to 2,750 tons of confiscated ammonium nitrate which had been stored at the Beirut port in a warehouse for six years.

Lebanese sources report that the welding of a door caused sparks which ignited the ammonium nitrate.

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab called for a day of mourning and President Michel Aoun has called a state of emergency to be implemented.

Lester speaks to two people on the ground in Beirut. Nathalie Bucher and Sana Nehmedescribe what has happened and how the city is responding.

Nathalie says the blast which happened just after 6 pm, occurred just between two Covid-19 lockdowns in the city.

We had two days of like normal, where the banks were open, and all the shops - and as of tomorrow we are supposed to go back into lockdown. So this time of day there is traffic.

Nathalie Bucher, Resident - Beirut

There is a highway going north, a port, and a bus terminal in that area, she explains.

And it is very, very near all sorts of residential areas, there are galleries, restaurants, small shops. it is close to the Old City and people were out and about.

Nathalie Bucher, Resident - Beirut

She lives a few kilometers away from the blast site in a 70-year-old apartment building on the 6th floor.

Just after 6 pm, the building started to shake, and I thought, that can only be an earthquake...then I realised it was not and I went onto the balcony and saw a massive column of smoke.

Nathalie Bucher, Resident - Beirut

She says glass has broken even in her building a number of kilometres away from the blast.

You could hear the sirens going and everyone in the street checking on each other.

Nathalie Bucher, Resident - Beirut

Sana Nehme is an advisor to the Lebanese government and a journalist and translator.

The response was fast.

Sana Nehme, Advisor to the Lebanese government, journalist and translator

She says high-level government meetings with the military were held last night and this morning.

The primary investigation is being given five days to come up with the major headlines of what has happened to cause this horrific blast.

Sana Nehme, Advisor to the Lebanese government, journalist and translator

There have been reports that the sodium nitrate had been stored since 2014 but before the investigation can be carried out we are in no place to give our opinion.

Sana Nehme, Advisor to the Lebanese government, journalist and translator

Is it an accident that started it? Is it a person that started it? I am in no state to disclose any of that information nor do I know anymore.

Sana Nehme, Advisor to the Lebanese government, journalist and translator

There are concerns that more bodies will be found under the rubble as there are still people missing. Others are also still in critical surgery, she says.

Had this been inland Beirut and not close to the sea we would have woken up to thousands dead.

Sana Nehme, Advisor to the Lebanese government, journalist and translator

Listen to the interviews below:


5 August 2020 1:21 PM
Tags:
Beirut
Beirut explosions
Beirut port

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