The Human Faces of the Beirut Explosion

Yesterday, the talk was about the cause of the Beirut fire and explosion with comments made about if it was deliberate or an accident, or indeed an attack. Video images were streamed with observations to support all these positions and heated debates were held in different forums. 

Today, it is different for many of us who are so close to this horrific event. We are grieving in every cell of our being. We are mourning those that are family, that are friends and faces of those we did not know but we recognise as someone’s child, husband, wife, sibling, father or mother. Sadness is etched deeply and our heartache is so visible. 

We are reading and hearing about where people were and what they were doing when the explosion occurred. The stories of near misses but also unfortunate circumstances. A friend’s brother who was supposed to be at the port and would have been at ground zero but stayed home as he had a cold and is alive today. While, another of a banker who was working back to meet a deadline and did not go home to her family. 

For Australians, the story that is so close to our hearts given our recent bushfires is of a brigade of firefighters, first-responders who had travelled to put out the initial fire but then all perished in the subsequent explosion. For our firefighters, we mourn them and we honour them, rightly so, for their ultimate sacrifice. For their families, our social security and insurance system ensures that their families will be supported financially. For our Lebanese firefighters, many of whom are also volunteers, there is limited to no government type support. In addition, they may have lost more than just their loved ones but also their homes, their contents, and/or their entire neighbourhoods. 

Australia’s Black Summer 2019/20

The recent bushfires in Australia captured national and global attention. Although these were not the first large-scale bushfires to hit the country, they were certainly some of the most devastating. Deemed “globally unprecedented” in their scale the season which lasted nine months between June 2019 and March 2020 became known as the Black Summer. In the aftermath it was estimated that over 46 million acres (186,000 square kilometres) of land burned, destroying over 5,900 buildings (including 3,500 homes), killing at least 34 people and injuring numerous others including the 11.3 million people impacted by the smoke, especially firefighters. In addition, over 1 billion animals were estimated to have died and countless others were injured and had their habitats destroyed. There is no way to truly capture the amount of economic and social impact but the insured damage alone was almost $2 billion dollars. 

Lebanon’s Fire/Explosion

The Lebanon explosion that occurred near the port in the capital city of Beirut on the 4th of August, 2020 is already reported to have claimed the lives of at least 135 people and with over 5,000 others reported to be injured. At least 300,000 homes were badly damaged or destroyed leaving an estimated $3 billion dollars’ worth of damage including to 85% of the nations stored grain supply at a time when food prices have risen up to 80% during the ongoing political, economic and medical crises in the country. The continued impacts from the toxic gases and chemicals released by the blast will no doubt have further effects that are yet to be seen, as well as the untold social and psychological damage that will occur as the disaster’s impacts continue to unfold. 

Top photo is Lebanon before the incident – bottom is after the explosion.

If you can afford to donate to support those impacted by the blast, please visit one of these links to financially support a legitimate organisation addressing the range of needs on the ground at this time:

Beirut Disaster Relief Appeal (Tax Deductible)

All funds raised go to urgent medical supplies, food packages and home repairs.

Lebanese Red Cross

Are providing independent, volunteer-run and free medical and transport services for those impacted by the blast.

Lebanese Food Bank 

Raising funds to provide food and combat food insecurity caused by the economic and current disaster situation.

Impact Lebanon

Raises money from the Lebanese diaspora, currently focusing on funding housing for those whose homes were destroyed in the blast.


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