Beirut, Lebanon is reeling from a massive explosion on the evening of Tuesday, August 4. Here are five things you need to know about what happened.
1. It was devastating.
So far, it’s known that at least 220 people have died; more than 6,000 are wounded; and approximately 300,000 are displaced from their homes. Emergency crews are still searching for survivors among blocks of wreckage.
The blast was caused by a highly combustible material (ammonium nitrate) stored in a warehouse at the city’s port. As strong as a 3.3 magnitude earthquake, the explosion was felt more than 150 miles away.
“It’s very difficult to comprehend the scale of the devastation right now,” says Colin Lee, Plan Lebanon’s Country Director. “It’s extensive, and people’s lives have been turned upside down.”
2. This couldn’t have happened at a worse time.
This tragedy comes at an already extremely challenging time for Lebanon. The country has been in a dire economic collapse since last year. Unemployment and poverty rates are soaring. Mass protests have erupted, sometimes turning violent.
And then came COVID-19. The outbreak in Lebanon has forced lockdowns across the country. Recently there’s been an alarming spike in the number of cases.
With this deadly blast, things may likely get worse from here.
3. Hospitals are in ruins.
Several hospitals in the city were damaged, with two near the blast shutting down completely. Many others are barely functioning.
Patients are being treated in parking lots. Many are not being treated at all. Doctors are bandaged up as much as those seeking help.
The city’s hospitals were already grappling with a spike in COVID-19 cases. Now, when they’re needed even more desperately, they’re overwhelmed. For many people, there’s nowhere to go.
4. Vulnerable children and girls are at extremely high risk.
There isn’t data yet on how many children have died. But this type of event is traumatizing. Many may have been separated from their families in the chaos of the blast.
“Although a full picture of the damage is still emerging, we are very concerned about the impact this will have on children, their families and communities in the days and weeks ahead,” says Colin Lee.
Things may be especially hard for adolescent and refugee girls in Beirut. Life was already tough for them before the blast. In 2019, girls in Beirut told us that they regularly experience harassment, violence, discrimination and barriers to education.
And when it comes to emergencies, our experience tells us that girls are always disproportionately affected.
Their futures may be in jeopardy, long after the dust settles.
5. Help is needed urgently.
The coming days and weeks will be critical for Beirut. International support is needed now more than ever. Luckily, the world often comes together when crises like this happen. We come together to show those who are most vulnerable that they’re not alone.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Plan has been working in Lebanon to provide child protection and health services for Syrian refugees and for vulnerable girls and children. We will continue to be there for them now in the face of this disaster.
You can help, too. Every dollar counts and every minute matters.