From sea to mountain

How a massive explosion left a trail of destruction across Beirut and beyond

Published August 6, 2020

Courtesy of Lina Almeh. Satellite image Planet Labs, Inc.
Reuters/Mahmoud Nakib
Satellite image ©2020 Maxar Technologies
Joud Hassan
STR/AFP/Getty Images
Marwan Naamani/picture alliance/Getty Images
Nabil Mounzer/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Obtained by CNN
Obtained by CNN

On Tuesday shortly after 6 p.m. local time, a huge blast shook downtown Beirut, the seaside capital of Lebanon.

It was so strong that it generated seismic waves equivalent to a 3.3 magnitude earthquake -- felt in Cyprus some 240 kilometers (about 150 miles) away.

There were two blasts in short succession at Beirut’s main port. The second sent a huge red mushroom cloud up over the city.

The shockwave from the blast tore across Beirut, knocking people off their feet, destroying buildings, flipping cars and blowing out windows.

Lebanon's government blamed the second explosion on a large store of ammonium nitrate -- an industrial chemical -- which caught fire and ignited.

Video shot from a nearby apartment balcony shows smoke rising from at least one warehouse in the port. The first explosion at 6:07 p.m. is followed by a second massive blast 33 seconds later. Unmute Mute

Some of the worst devastation happened in downtown Beirut, where residents were sent running for cover as pieces of buildings rained down. Unmute Mute

One of them was this bride, whose wedding day video was dramatically interrupted when the blast ripped through a square in the Central District.

Most of the buildings in the immediate vicinity of the port were destroyed or heavily damaged by the explosion.

The blast created a 400-foot-wide crater where part of the port used to be.

It also left a trail of destruction extending out more than 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the port.

Armenia Street 0.9km from the blast site Joud Hassan took cover in his closet when he heard the sound of the first blast. After the second explosion, all of the contents of his home collapsed in front of his eyes.

Gemmayzeh Street 1.2km from the blast site Beirut's trendy Gemmayzeh Street was covered with debris. Parked cars were crushed and the bars and restaurants that line the street were torn apart.

Nejmeh Square 1.5km from the blast site Beirut's central district was once levelled by the country's 15-year civil war. The scenes after the explosion were remniscent of those darker days.

Hotel Cavalier 3.1km from the blast site The Hamra area, considered the commercial center of the city, was covered in glass. The bustling neighborhood was also plunged into darkness because of power outages.

Jdeideh 4.3km from the blast site A desk at a law firm in the northern suburb of Jdeidah was littered with debris from the impact of the blast.

BeitMisk 12km from the blast site Mountain towns overlooking the capital, including BeitMisk, were damaged too. Villagers in remote parts of the country also say they heard the explosion.