FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Dr. Paul Moarbes and Julia Warde, a former paramedic, were in Beirut when the black smoke from a heavy fire started to come from the port. The explosion that followed prompted an expanding mushroom cloud, and a blast that left at least 135 people dead.
Warde said her sister was among the more than 5,000 who were injured. She was in pain and was passing out. They visited five overwhelmed hospitals before she was admitted to one. She had to get more than 100 stitches without anesthesia.
“People were covered with blood, holding their wounds, or their hands, or someone without an eye, or someone who lost a leg,” Warde said.
Outside of the hospitals, there are 300,000 people homeless and about 100 vanished, including a team of 10 emergency responders. Authorities are investigating what set off the 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored since 2013.
Moarbes said the hospital where he works was suddenly rushed with about 800 people injured. He and Warde believe the city of about 2.4 million needs serious help ― from medical supplies to generators and food. They are relying on non-governmental organizations.
“It’s unacceptable for our people to go through something like this out of something so irresponsible from our government,” Warde said. “I don’t have any trust in our government, so please don’t donate for the government ― just donate for the International Red Cross.”
There wasn’t time to think about conflicts of interest or controversies in the code of medical ethics. Moarbes said he had to perform surgery on a friend who suffered a head injury.
As a sign of the rising death toll, Moarbes doesn’t think his friend is going to survive. Families are still searching for loved ones. Instagram’s Locate Victims Beirut page is full of pictures and messages.
Imad Bazzi used Twitter to send a message in behalf of Lucas Bellerba, 30, and Marie Vivero. They had lost their phones and were unable to reach their parents abroad. Someone asked him where they were from.
“No idea, sharing the very little info I can get, it is a mess, total mess at the emergency room,” he wrote.
HOW TO HELP
- The Lebanese Red Cross is accepting donations at these bank accounts or you can donate online here.
- The Lebanese Food Bank is accepting donations online.
- Beit El Baraka, a nonprofit organization with social workers who focus on helping the elderly, is accepting donations online.
- Impact Lebanon is a nonprofit organization offering support to first responders in Beirut. They set up a Just Giving page.
Local 10 News partners ABC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.