LEBANON

Explosion in Beirut: hospitals overwhelmed in the distressed capital

Left: Injured people being treated in the parking garage of an overcrowded hospital following a massive explosion  Aug. 4 in Beirut. Right: chaos in the halls of St. Joseph Hospital, where the wounded were treated on the ground and in hallways.
Left: Injured people being treated in the parking garage of an overcrowded hospital following a massive explosion Aug. 4 in Beirut. Right: chaos in the halls of St. Joseph Hospital, where the wounded were treated on the ground and in hallways.

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On the evening of August 4, a massive explosion in a warehouse in the port district of Beirut rocked the Lebanese capital. Throughout the night, powerful images of the explosion and ruined buildings circulated on social media around the world. The explosion left several thousand people injured, beyond the capacity of the city’s hospitals.

“The city's hospitals are full of the wounded!” Georges Kétané, secretary general of the Lebanese Red Cross, told France 24 the following day. As of the morning of August 5, at least 100 people were reported dead and more than 4,000 injured, according to the Red Cross.

Shattered ceilings, blood all over the floor, medical staff treating the wounded on the ground: scenes filmed on Tuesday evening from several hospitals in Beirut showed the chaos in hospitals in the Lebanese capital after the explosion.

This video filmed after the Aug. 4 explosion in Beirut shows wounded people flooding St. Joseph’s Hospital, where they were treated on the ground or in corridors.

 

A video shot at St Joseph's Hospital in the Dora district showed bloodied caregivers in hallways, on hospital beds and on the floor. People are visible talking by phone with their loved ones, in tears. In the hospital of Al Roum in the district of Achrafieh, nurses stepped over slabs of fallen ceiling, treating the wounded among fragments of shattered glass and walls. The hospital’s ceiling collapsed from the shock of the blast.

 

Caregivers from Al Roum Hospital search for patients among debris on the 9th floor.

 

Several videos shared on Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter show damage that some hospitals sustained. Despite this, hospitals continue to receive the wounded:

 

In front of the Hôtel Dieu hospital, located less than 3 km from the port, hundreds of people covered in blood are shown seeking treatment or trying to call relatives and reassure them.

 

As of August 5, Lebanon had 5,065 cases of Covid-19. The pandemic is being aggravated by a shortage of medical equipment due to the ongoing financial crisis. On Tuesday evening, hospitals in the capital found themselves well over capacity facing a flow of wounded people and structural damage to some of their buildings.

 

This video, filmed by a nurse at Al Roum Hospital, shows a doctor and nurses tending injured people, amid shards of glass and a floor covered in blood.

The secretary general of the Lebanese Red Cross, Georges Kétané, described the group’s immediate response to the crisis:

We sent 75 ambulances to the most affected neighborhoods and had 50 other vehicles waiting. Hospitals have surpassed their capacity and no longer have space for victims. Several of the injured were transported out of Beirut, to the north and south. There are people still missing whose families are still looking for them.

 

 

 In response to the emergency, several crisis medical posts opened in the streets to treat those who were seriously injured. At Martyrs’ Square and the Forum of Beirut, the Lebanese Red Cross is operating triage and first aid tents. Other hospitals, such as Bahman Hospital in the east of the city, have started treating wounded in the parking lot of the medical complex.

 

Mass blood donations and campaigns for shelter

Mohamad Chouk is the head of an NGO in Tripoli called “Guardians of the city.” Members traveled to the capital on Tuesday evening to help caregivers at the Hôtel Dieu hospital, which treated 500 patients well over its capacity:

“Last night, we went to donate blood because Beirut has many injured and therefore many potential losses. We went to the Hôtel Dieu hospital. It is clear that doctors and nurses have a real need for more medical equipment and staff.”

 

Mohamad Chouk gives blood with members of the NGO "Guardians of the city". Photo Mohamad Chouk.

 

Last night, we went to donate blood because Beirut has many injured and therefore many potential losses. We went to the Hôtel Dieu hospital. It is clear that doctors and nurses have a real need for more medical equipment and staff.

 

In a video filmed on the evening of August 4 at the Hôtel Dieu hospital in Beirut, volunteer Mohamad Chouk appeals to the inhabitants of his city, 80 km north of the capital: “I ask all those who can travel from Tripoli to come and donate blood here in Beirut. We must absolutely help in these circumstances. Our blood is your blood.”

 

In response to an appeal from the Red Cross and other local organizations, many Beirut residents Lebanese, Iraqis, Syrians and Palestinians rushed to blood banks and hospitals to help rescue victims of the explosion.

 

 

An Iraqi resident filmed this blood donation in a hospital, calling for solidarity from his compatriots.

 

 

 

People also organized housing campaigns to help shelter those whose homes have been destroyed by the explosion. In this campaign, Internet users on Snapchat can offer to host victims in their homes:

 

Essential aid from international organizations began to reach the city on August 5.

 

Snapchat video of UN trucks arriving on Charles Helou Avenue taken Aug. 5

 

In the aftermath of the explosion, the Red Cross is working with the army and humanitarian crisis NGOs to find the survivors in the rubble of destroyed buildings.

Article by Fatma Ben Hamad