Shocking footage shows church service underway as Beirut blast hit

“Lebanon’s people are strong, but they need the world’s support to survive this tragedy.”

Footage of a church service being conducted when Lebanon’s Beirut port explosion struck has provided a chilling window into the devastation wrought by the deadly blast.

The video shows a service at the parish of St Maron Baouchrieh. A priest swings a thurible when the lights go out, the building shakes and it begins to crumble around him. The service was being live-streamed due to coronavirus, with parishioners watching in horror in realtime.

Mercifully, none of those in the church were harmed according to a Facebook post the church posted later:

“We thank God who protected those who were in the church from a confirmed disaster relative to the extent of damage and the power of explosion that took off all the windows and iron doors,” it said.

In the disaster’s aftermath, aid agency World Vision has made an urgent call to the international community to immediately respond and ensure families and children left homeless can access shelter, food and hygiene supplies.

The deadly explosion occurred on Tuesday, killing more than 130 people, injuring 5000 more and leaving around 300,000 homeless.

“The explosion severely impacts our operations and our ability to continue to provide food assistance to the most vulnerable.” – Hans Bederski, National Director, World Vision Lebanon

“Before the explosion, part of the assistance that we were providing was the provision of food packages. Most non-perishable foods are imported goods and the majority of them were coming through the port,” said Hans Bederski, National Director at World Vision Lebanon.

“The explosion severely impacts our operations and our ability to continue to provide food assistance to the most vulnerable. Once the stocks that are already in the country have run out, getting new stock into the country will be extremely difficult,” he said.

The agency has conducted a rapid needs assessment and aims to reach 120,000 people with immediate support, including food, household items and hygiene supplies. The provision of alternative short-term accommodation and simple household repairs is also a priority. The NGO is, however, extremely concerned that damage to the port will impact its ability to provide food assistance in the long term.

The explosion has decimated areas where World Vision has had a presence for more than a decade, as Eternity detailed in this article featuring World Vision Lebanon’s Communications Manager Josephine Haddad.

The international aid agency also is providing psychological first aid for children affected by the explosion and is greatly concerned about the impacts upon them. “It breaks my heart what happened in Beirut on Tuesday. What’s even worse is that children will never forget the magnitude of the destruction and the shock caused by this tragic event,” said World Vision staff member, Charbel El Khoury.

Many families affected by the blast have sought shelter in community and administrative buildings. Others have nowhere to go.

“It breaks my heart what happened in Beirut on Tuesday. What’s even worse is that children will never forget the magnitude of the destruction and the shock caused by this tragic event.” – Charbel El Khoury.

World Vision Field Operations Director for Lebanon, Rami Shamma, has been on the ground surveying damage and assessing need: “Seeing the level of destruction took me back to previous experiences of wars and periods where we had violent clashes and assassinations. The scale of impact of the explosion is hard to imagine.”

“People are still in shock, walking around the streets and surveying the debris of their houses and shops. It is clearly visible that they don’t know where to start. It is just heartbreaking. However, I also saw people carrying brooms, gloves, buckets, water bottles for distribution, and cleaning the houses and streets. This sense of solidarity brings hope to me. We will be able to come out of this,” he said.

The disaster comes as Lebanon experiences economic crisis, a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases and having to support a large refugee community. Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees per capita in the world; a government estimate tallies 1.5 million Syrian refugees and about 20,000 refugees of other origins – as well as Palestinian refugees under UNRWA’s mandate.

“In order to respond adequately and support children and families in desperate need in Lebanon we will need to raise $US5 million,” Mr Shamma said.

“The people of Lebanon have suffered enough. They are strong, but they need the world’s support to survive this tragedy.”

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