Tom Atema was working remotely in the United States rather than from his office in Beirut, Lebanon, when news of Tuesday’s blast reached him. The head of Heart for Lebanon—a Christian nongovernmental organization that’s worked with churches in the capital city and with Syrian refugees stranded in Bekaa Valley—sent local teams into the downtown area right away to assess the damage and ways they could serve.
What they saw: Bloodied victims looking for help, windows in every downtown building blown out by the early evening blast, and so much rubble they couldn’t cross some streets.
The massive explosion, which rocked central Beirut with what looked like a mushroom cloud at 6:08 p.m. local time, damaged homes up to 6 miles away. People felt the shockwaves in Cyprus, 145 miles across the Mediterranean.
The explosion began with billowing smoke, suggesting a massive fire at the city’s central port. It ricocheted into a blinding rush of orange debris: An eruption of what officials believed was ammonium nitrate unfurled over the city like an apocalyptic umbrella. Hours later, Lebanon’s health minister reported at least 70 killed and more than 4,000 people injured.
Local journalists captured scenes of residents trapped beneath rubble and the city descending into evening darkness with no power.
The blast particularly damaged East Beirut’s Christian neighborhoods. In the Ashrafieh district, where Atema’s offices are located, all windows had blown-out glass and damage, he said. That included his own offices (where no one was hurt), and the large evangelical Resurrection Church and Nazarene Church. Headquarters for Youth For Christ in the neighborhood also suffered damage but were not destroyed.
Read more at World Magazine