Mon, 21 Sep 2020

A helicopter sprays water to extinguish fire after the explosions at the Port of Beirut in Lebanon, Aug. 5, 2020. (Xinhua/Bilal Jawich)

"I cannot forget the scenes of dead and wounded people all over the streets," says a Lebanese woman who searched for her husband after the deadly blasts.

BEIRUT, Aug. 6 (Xinhua) -- "Thank God he is still alive." These are the first words that Lydia Nseir said when she was asked about her husband who was seriously injured in the explosions that rocked Beirut on Tuesday.

The explosions killed at least 137 people and injured 5,000 others, the Lebanese health ministry said on Thursday.

On that tragic day, Nseir, a Lebanese woman in her 50's, received calls from friends of the family, telling her they saw her husband Elie on television lying on a gurney of the Lebanese Red Cross.

"My daughters and I rushed to Mar Youssef Hospital as it is located in Dora, close to Elie's office in downtown," Nseir said while she was barely holding her tears.

A genral view for the Port of Beirut and surrounding in Lebanon, Aug. 6, 2020. (Xinhua/Bilal Jawich)

Unfortunately, Elie was not found at the hospital and the mobile lines were not functioning well, possibly due to the explosions or the big volume of calls made by people trying to reach their loved ones after the deadly event.

"I kept looking for him all over the emergency rooms at the hospital while screaming and crying, but I could not find him. My daughter finally made the call to the office to know that he is still on the floor unable to move or speak," the lady told Xinhua.

Nseir described the moments of searching for her husband as a nightmare, as they had to leave the car and run on foot due to the chaos on the streets.

"I cannot forget the scenes of dead and wounded people all over the streets of Beirut and the massive volume of shattered glass that covered the streets of the city," she said.

The lady and the two daughters managed to find the husband a few minutes later but then they struggled to find a free ambulance capable of transporting them to the American University Hospital.

"We were finally able to stop an ambulance which was already transporting a man who is disfigured from his injury; it felt scary and horrible," Nseir said.

A health worker checks medical supply at the camp site of the Chinese peacekeeping troops to Lebanon in southern Lebanon, Aug. 5, 2020. (Xinhua/Huang Shifeng)

Nseir sits day and night on a sidewalk with her family near the hospital waiting for news about her husband who is expected to have operations to fix injuries which broke almost every part of his lower body along with his arms.

The two huge explosions that rocked Port of Beirut on Tuesday have shaken buildings all over Lebanon's capital while causing heavy damage in the city.

Citizens were in shock at the sight of dead and wounded people on the streets, a scene that was last seen during the assassination of former prime minister Rafic Hariri in 2005 and Lebanon's civil war in 1975.

People who heard the heavy sound of the blast or saw fire emanating from the port were at a complete loss as they did not know what they should do at the moment.

Scenes at hospitals were even worse.

"I've seen very serious cases before but they were not as scary as the scenes I have seen on Tuesday following the blasts," Bilal Mohammad, an anesthesiologist and pain physician at al-Zahraa hospital in Beirut, told Xinhua.

Mohammad said his hospital received around 400 injuries, and many of them were disfigured and in need for urgent operations.

Palestinian children hold candles and Lebanese flags to show solidarity with Lebanese people in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, on Aug. 5, 2020. (Xinhua/Khaled Omar)

Mohammad described a scene that was very emotional to him when he saw a nine-year-old boy helping his injured parents reach the emergency room after being transported by ambulance to the hospital.

"The boy suffered a little from his asthma but he was trying to hold both his parents to help them to the emergency room," Mohammad told Xinhua, adding that the hospital's team gave the boy oxygen and treated his parents' moderate injuries.

Mohammad said his heart was broken at the sight of people rushing to the hospital to ask about their missing parents and loved ones.

"We saw hysteric reactions by people who were in search for their family members but could not find them," he said.

Likewise, Samar Arab, chief executive for nursing at al-Zahraa Hospital, felt deep sadness when people came to ask about their missing relatives but she could not help at all.

"I hope we do not have to go through this situation ever again," she told Xinhua.

"We were always worried and concerned about not being able to give every person the right to proper treatment. We cannot waste time when it comes to critical conditions, yet we cannot neglect any case whatsoever," she explained.

Arab said her hospital has opened an additional refrigerator expecting to receive more dead people in the coming days.

Lebanese Red Cross and Civil Defense teams are still looking for tens of people who are still missing under the rubble.

The Lebanese cabinet announced on Wednesday a state of emergency in Beirut for two weeks. The state of emergency will be under the supervision of the Lebanese army who will maintain security in the city.

The cabinet also decided to put under arrest port officials who were aware and involved in the storage of the 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate at Port of Beirut, noting that primary information reveals that chemicals stored since 2014 in warehouse No. 12 at the port may have caused the explosions in Beirut.

Investigations into the disaster are ongoing and the Higher Defense Council promised to reveal some results from investigations within a period of five days since the day of the explosion. ■

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