FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Dr. Dany Habr, of Fort Lauderdale, said he burst into tears when he saw videos of the massive explosion in Lebanon. With the force of a 3.5-magnitude earthquake, it killed at least 135 people and wounded more than 5,000 in Beirut.
Habr couldn’t sleep Tuesday night. He is among the Lebanese in South Florida who remember the horrors of the 1975-1990 civil war. He was on his phone using Whatsapp, calling his friends and waiting for messages about his best friend who vanished after the explosion.
“They told me this morning that they found her intubated with a severe brain hemorrhage in one of the hospitals,” said Habr, who is an American University of Beirut graduate.
The explosion comes amid an economic crisis during the coronavirus pandemic. There were reports of toxic gases released in the explosion. The destruction and closure of the Port of Beirut raised fears of food insecurity and other shortages.
“We need to get them aid. We need to get them ... medical supplies. We need to get them ... treatment and we need to help the average people,” Habr said.
With some hospital buildings damaged, some patients are receiving care under tents in fields. Public schools were turned into shelters. Officials said hundreds of thousands won’t be able to return to their homes for two to three months.
Lebanese President Michael Aoun told reporters on Wednesday that there is an ongoing investigation to find those who are responsible for storing ammonium nitrate. Port of Beirut officials are under house arrest and there is a two-week state of emergency in effect.
“There are no words to describe the catastrophe that hit Beirut last night,” Aoun said.
This photo shows a general view of the scene of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. The massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the city's port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
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Local 10 News partners ABC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.