Less than 48 hours after a giant explosion that wrought devastation in its capital city, Lebanon is grappling with the grim realities of a disaster that killed at least 145 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
Footage and images of the enormous blast have reverberated around the world, triggering both a flood of donations – and intensifying questions as to what caused it.
And as the first international search-and-rescue teams entered the focal point of the catastrophe today, Sky News’ special correspondent Alex Crawford was with them.
Image: A Russian search-and-rescue team begin work
This is what she saw:
It is the first time we’ve managed to get to the epicentre of the explosion and it is pretty devastating.
This is ground zero
The destruction that has happened here is quite enormous.
More from Beirut
The people in blue around us are a Russian search-and-rescue team. They have just arrived within the last half hour or so. We came in with them.
They are going to make as thorough a search as they possibly can underneath this pile of destroyed grain.
Image: Lebanese civil defence workers hope there may be survivors in an underground room beneath the wreckage
We’re right next to the huge silo that contained the country’s grain supplies and they are standing on one of its columns.
There is now less than a month’s supply remaining for the entire country.
Apart from the food insecurity problems that are inevitably going to result from this disaster, there are possibly people underneath this pile.
We’ve spoken to a member of the Lebanese civil defence, who are here and have been working here since the explosion.
He said that if there was anyone who was here and was standing above the ground, they didn’t survive.
Everything was obliterated.
Image: Specialist equipment is being used to try and detect any sound or any movement below
They haven’t even been able to recover bodies from here, just parts of limbs.
But underneath, he said, the maps show that there is an underground room.
That gives them a sliver of hope that, maybe, people somehow survived under there and they are going to be searching this area in particular.
They have a drone which we can hear above us, just to help them identify weak spots where they might be able to dip down below.
They’re taking in specialist equipment to try and detect any sound or any movement.
At the site of the explosion in Beirut. The destruction is horrifying. Russian search & rescue team with specialist equipment and dogs looking for any possible survivors. They’re working with Lebanese army and civil defence @AlexCrawfordSky @Shepstick pic.twitter.com/iklgUKT7TW
— Zein Ja’far (@skyzein) August 6, 2020
The Lebanese civil defence have already said that they’ve pinpointed areas around this where they don’t think people have survived, from which a terrible smell is coming.
But here, there is still a little bit of hope, just because of this underground compartment that they are now trying to reach.
You can see there are tons and tons of debris on top of it, but it hasn’t collapsed.
It’s stayed on top of the ground and hasn’t, as far as we can see, penetrated below.
That’s why they’re spending so much time and effort.
This is one of the first international teams to arrive here in Lebanon. They arrived this afternoon.
The Russians have already set up a field hospital in the old stadium in Beirut. It is very impressive, with tents and tents of medical equipment.
They’ve bought a specialist team that is very experienced and skilled in search and rescue.
The president of France, Emmanuel Macron, was here at this site earlier.
He has also seen the most devastated areas in the city and promised his country’s help, along with some sort of guarantee that he’ll ensure that any donated funds from France will go to the right people.
Whether this was caused by accident or some sort of deliberate attack, there are many people here who still believe the latter could be the case, largely because they distrust almost everything that their government tells them.
The government has had accusations of corruption levelled against them for many years and the scene off this explosion, which was this huge store of ammonium nitrate kept here at this warehouse that exploded and set of this terrible chain of destruction, laid here and was stored here for six years.
The people of Lebanon want to know how that was so; why was that allowed to happen? Who knew about it, and what happened that led up to this catastrophic series of events?
Source : Sky News