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Riad Al Assad, Beirut
photography Yasmina Hilal

Watch Beirut locals discuss the city’s devastating explosion

In a short film, people living in the Lebanese capital relate their experiences of the blast, how the city came together in its wake, what comes next, and ways you can help

On August  4 this year, a huge explosion in Beirut’s port area devastated the city, killing over 200 people, injuring thousands, and destroying their homes, businesses, and studios. “I was at the barber shop, about two kilometers away,” recounts Hamza Mekdad, a designer that resides in the city. “And still when the explosion happened, the whole place shattered.”

In the wake of the blast, many people in the Lebanese capital came together to help provide medical aid, trauma support, and places to sleep, as well as clearing rubble and attempting to salvage what’s left of people’s possessions. “It’s amazing. What I’m seeing every day is beautiful,” says another Beirut-based designer, Mélanie Dagher, in this short film, Beirut After the Blast. But, she adds: “It’s not supposed to be this way.” 

“They took on the role of the government and all of its responsibilities,” Mekdad explains. The government’s refusal of such responsibilities – which also saw officials ignore repeated warnings about the almost 3,000 tonnes of an explosive chemical, ammonium nitrate, that caused the blast – has added fuel to calls for systematic change.

“We need to rebuild our country in a different way,” adds Maria Simon Rahbany. “We need to see an actual change in the socio-political culture.” Previous protests, such as the mass revolt of 2019, have revolved around claims of corruption and economic inequality, which – alongside months of coronavirus quarantines – have made dealing with the blast even more difficult, especially for already-marginalised communities, or those in precarious economic situations.

Especially without proper government support, the road to rebuilding the city and the lives of its residents is a long one, but people outside Beirut can help by donating funds, or their time and talents. “If not, just really keep on talking about Lebanon,” says Dagher. “Stay aware of what happened, talk about it as much as possible.”

Watch the Beirut community talk about life after the blast in the video below.