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A firsthand account: Responding to the Beirut blast

Hiba assisting an older person at home

Shortly after the explosion in Beirut, 28-year-old Hiba Shaer went to the site of the emergency to help older people affected. She's a Health Officer at the Lebanon office of our partner organisation HelpAge International, and told us about her experience on the frontline of the disaster.

I have been in a state of shock since the massive explosion in Beirut. I did not believe the situation in Lebanon could get any worse after the political turmoil, the economic crisis, and then the COVID-19 pandemic. And then this happened.

I was worried about going to the site of the explosion and meeting the affected people. I was in denial about what had happened, scared about seeing people mourning or searching for their loved ones and afraid of getting emotional in front of them and not being able to offer them the support needed.

It broke my heart when I arrived at the location with my colleagues to see the places I used to pass every morning on my way to the office, all destroyed, with nothing in their place but wreckage and shattered glass.

But as I moved deeper into the area, I saw that people of all ages and nationalities were coming from across Lebanon to stand shoulder to shoulder with the affected people of Beirut, supporting them in any way they can.

It gave me a sense of hope to see the care and the efforts being taken to clean up the streets and homes, and to help the injured people.

When I started interviewing affected people, I had to listen to their devastating stories of fear and pain that they were experiencing as a result of the explosion. All of their houses had been destroyed and some were injured. And yet I was impressed with their resilience. They were thankful that they had survived the crisis. They were not willing to give away their homes and their lives and were determined to rise up all over again.

This explosion has affected us all deeply. It has given us mixed feelings of fear, pain, and sorrow. But it has also given us a chance to cherish our lives and see the good in people, hoping that one day all the hardships we are going through will end and better days will come.

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Last updated: Oct 30 2020

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