The seven years of neglect, and 13 minutes of chaos, that destroyed Beirut | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

The seven years of neglect, and 13 minutes of chaos, that destroyed Beirut

Residents across central Beirut were peering quizzically at a mushroom cloud of grey above their heads when the sky cracked open and a tidal wave of pressure roared through.

It was like sound itself had imploded in everyone’s ears. The world simultaneously broke apart and snapped shut. Bodies were pulled into the air and thrown across rooms and streets. The facades of apartment blocks, offices and hospitals were peeled off and chewed into pieces.

The explosion unleashed warring tornadoes of pressure that wrestled everything off the walls and the floors, spitting shrapnel that cut through the air like bullets. The power of the blast instantly eviscerated windows, smacked down buildings, crumpled steel shutters and crushed cars like a giant’s fist.

“It was like an atomic bomb,” says Hala Okeili, 33, a yoga instructor who was less than a mile away from the port when disaster struck. “I thought they had started a war and someone was bombing us.”

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