The big story of the Beirut blast is already well known. 2,750 tons of improperly stored ammonium nitrate caused the one of the strongest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded, leveling the seaport and ripping through major portions of Beirut.
But the real story is seen in each individual home. Thousands of buildings that housed hundreds of thousands of Lebanese are uninhabitable now. Each home has a story of survival and tragedy. Windows are blasted to pieces, now only tangles of metal frames on the floor in a pile of glass shards. Doors are blown off their hinges, splintered and useless.
The trappings of life – cushions, beds, wardrobes, a can of hot sauce – are all swirled together in a mixed heap of glass and metal on the floors of each room. Sometimes there is dried blood on the walls where people got injured from glass in the blast.
Nobody can live in these homes until the rubble is first cleaned out.
That’s where we begin. We connect with residents whose homes are still a wreck and begin cleaning them. By cleaning, I don’t mean just a broom and dustpan. We need shovels and 50 pound sacks to fill with all the debris that has to be hauled down to the streets below.
This is all complicated by the fact that Beirut is a sprawling city of high-rises that favored in their architecture very large windows facing the ocean – and port – which left behind a huge amount of glass on flats many stories up from street level. The high-rises have no functional elevators. They were all disabled by the blast and the lack of electricity.
This means that dozens of hefty debris sacks need to be carried by hand down the stairs, sometimes 5-7 flights or more, to be dumped near the street for trucks to come and carry away.
It’s as wearying a task as it sounds. Clear a corner of a room. Fill a bag. Haul the bag down. Back up the steps to do it again. The process repeats itself all day until the team is either exhausted or the home is cleared of rubble. One bag at a time, one home at a time.
Right now there is no other way to begin moving life towards normal other than just starting to clear rubble home by home. That is what we’ve been doing all the past week at numerous homes. Our long-term intent is to follow back up on these homes to help them make it inhabitable again with repaired windows, doors, walls and ceilings.
Thanks for praying for us and the helpers out here. We need strength in these days, wisdom on how best to proceed, and open doors to continue working for the Lord.
We are also setting up a food and water distribution tent several days during the week. This is both a service to the residents and volunteers, as well as an outreach effort to the community. Pray for good Gospel conversations to stem from this as well!
If you wish to be involved in any way, you can support TGI via our site, sign up for our relief updates e-mail newsletter to better know how to pray, or contact us if you are interested in knowing more about how to be personally involved.