Editor's Note: This transcript was automatically transcribed, so mistakes are inevitable. You can contribute by proofreading the transcript or highlighting the mistakes. Sign up to be amongst the first contributors.
Kelci. We're driving past downtown, pretty close to the port, and everything is just piles of glass and debris and it's just storefronts like shoved over and and a hotel I was just near the other day is. Yeah, completely messed up. In 2013, Lebanon's government detained a ship carrying 2000 750 tons of a highly explosive chemical ammonium nitrate. Despite the danger that the chemicals posed, the government transferred the giant shipment to a hangar in Beirut port blocks from the city's downtown and close to its residential neighborhoods.
According to reporting by my colleague Ben Hubbard, port authorities repeatedly asked the government to remove those chemicals, warning of the risks, but they remained there unprotected for the next six years. Then this Tuesday, at six or seven p.m. local time, the ammonium nitrate combusted, triggering a series of explosions so powerful that the damage extended over half the city. They leveled buildings, flipped cars, killed more than 135 people, injured 5000 more, and left hundreds of thousands of people without housing.
For many in Lebanon, it was the culmination of years of mismanagement and neglect by the country's politicians. Times foreign correspondent Vivian, he has been reporting from Beirut since 2013, and she was at home in her apartment there on Tuesday evening. It's Thursday, August 6th. On Tuesday, August 4th, I had just gotten back from an interview and I was settling back into my home office, which faces the street to catch up on the emails that I had missed while I was in a meeting and try to type out my notes.
And it was a typically beautiful looking Beirut August day, but terrible feeling in that it's incredibly humid in Beirut in August where right near the Mediterranean. You kind of feel like you're just sloshing around in your own sweat. So I was kind of alternately fanning myself and and reading. And pretty soon after I sat down, a friend of mine sent me a video over WhatsApp and she said something like, the port seems to be burning. I was just about to try to load the video on my slow Beirut Internet connection when I heard this deep, like, rattling my bones, boom.
Like nothing I'd ever heard before in my entire life. And the building immediately started swaying back and forth, and I grew up in California, so I I know what an earthquake feels like and this felt like a bigger earthquake than I'd ever experienced in California. I was obviously freaked out. So I ran to the windows to try to see if I could figure out what was going on. Then all of a sudden, the next thing I knew, there was another boom.
And that's when everything seemed to come apart and I was just caught in this torrent of broken, sharp things. And then things stopped moving and and I tried to get up and out from under the desk and I opened my eyes and I was having trouble seeing things were blurry or things are kind of going in and out. And as I blinked, I realized it was because my face was wet. And I, I think I put my hand up to my forehead and realized that there was a huge gash that I could feel and that it was blood pouring down my face.
I sort of staggered up and I could feel blood flowing from other places. And, yeah, it was it was the moment when my vision just went wobbly that I that I knew something was wrong. And then within a few seconds. I realized, OK, my neighbors are running down the stairs, something else could be coming after this and it's definitely not safe to stay in this smashed up place. So I need to get out as quickly as possible.
And so I made my way to my door. I have a yellow front door. I had a yellow front door and it was ripped from its hinges and it was lying across my big dining room table. And my neighbors were running down the stairs and they kind of gestured to me to to follow. So all I could find where these really flimsy white espadrilles for shoes, I looked for something sturdier and I couldn't find anything under the debris.
There are these huge windows in my stairwell that had just been ripped clean from their frames and and twisted and. Smashed onto the stairs, and so we had to kind of climb through and under the window frames to get out, and once I reached the street, I, I hesitated for a second because I was honestly so afraid of what I would find outside if it was this bad for me and my neighbors, it had to be much at least as bad for for everybody else on the street.
And I had to take a moment to kind of steel myself for for what I might see. Oh. The New York Times wants to invite you to join our panel by joining our panel, you'll provide regular feedback about the show and your general experiences with advertising and products from the Times while connecting with fellow listeners and readers. Join it. NY Times dot com daily listener. Once I got outside, it just I mean, I had to walk down that street 10, 15, 20 minutes before this was the first day that people were allowed to be out and in businesses after a few days of coronavirus related lockdown.
So people had been out shopping. They had been going to restaurants early to make the most of, you know, one day when they could. The storefronts looked like someone had just made a giant fist and like punched through every storefront. And cars were kind of stranded here and there in the middle of the street. And people were walking around sort of dazed and bloodied. My first thought was to try to see what was going on at the Red Cross, which is next door to me.
And it's as soon as I looked in their windows, which were totally smashed, I thought, OK, there's there's no way anyone here can help me or anyone else.
And the weirdest part was that the sky was still so blue at that point. I never saw the the mushroom cloud that you see in the videos. I saw sort of the lingering smoke from it. But I just remember the street being, you know, it was almost golden hour.
So the light was just beautiful. And we were all just walking down the street, it was chaos that people were going every which way, no one knew exactly where to go, and this guy on a motorcycle comes up to me and he saw that my face was bloody, I guess. And he looked at me and just motioned for me to hop onto the back. And we ended up picking up another guy who was even worse hurt than I was.
And so was the three of us on this little motorbike trying to chug up to the to the nearest hospital.
Really, it was it was only motorbikes that were moving because the cars were stuck or frozen in place or there's just too much traffic or they couldn't drive over all the debris. So we eventually had to stop a few blocks from the hospital and I walked the rest of the way. But at a certain point, I realized that my shoes were full of broken glass too, and and everyone around me was in the same boat, I saw people bleeding from the head, bleeding from their limbs, people who couldn't walk, people who are being carried, people who were.
Sitting in chairs with with tourniquets on their on their thighs, because, as it turned out, once I got to the hospital. That hospital was completely devastated. I learned later that it lost several nurses and a few patients who were on ventilators at the time of the explosion. And when the hospital got blown out and and the power went out, those patients died. So they weren't accepting any new patients. That became clear pretty quickly. So a lot of us were just kind of wandering around wondering what to do next.
And it was outside the emergency room there that I, I ran into a total stranger who sort of grabbed me by the arm and was trying to help me get into the emergency room. But when we realized that that wasn't going to work out, he had me sit down on some stairs and he kind of wiped me off and somewhere, found a bandage and put it around my forehead, gave me some water and that he was off to look for his friend.
I kept wondering, kept walking, it was trying to get in touch with colleagues and with friends to see whether everyone was OK. I wasn't getting through to a few of my friends, which was incredibly scary. And so I just walked deeper into the neighborhood hoping to see if I could get to a main road and flag a taxi to somehow take me to the hospital. But I didn't know how likely that was given that the roads seemed to be jammed and I'm sure everybody else was doing the same thing as me, so.
I'm not sure I had a great plan at that point, and again, I got lucky, I ran into a friend of a friend and he was. Cleaning up the debris around his house and he saw me and waved me over and gave me water and looked at the rest of my wounds and, you know, cleaned the rest of them and even disinfected them with water, which is a Lebanese aniseed flavored liquor, and told me jokes, distracted me, bandaged me with.
What we had on hand, which was not much, and that's when my colleague Ben Hubbard found me and we basically were just by the side of the road trying to see if anyone would stop and take us to the hospital because it was so hard to get any transportation. So finally, this this guy in an SUV just pulls over and agreed to drive us to one of the few hospitals that was still accepting new patients because every hospital in the area was totally overrun.
And once we got to the hospital, again, it was complete chaos. People were just lying on the floor or sitting in bloody armchairs, there seemed to be no sort of system for getting in. And then Quada, who is our Lebanese reporter based here, and an all around Wonderwoman, she shows up and kind of just takes me by the hand and flags down a doctor and pulls me inside. And that's when they put staples on my arms, down one leg and all across my forehead.
And the. So it's after midnight in Beirut on late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, and I just got back to my coworker Ben Hubbard's apartment in Beirut, which thankfully wasn't affected by the blast. I just got home from going to another hospital because. Twenty four hours later, I guess, more like 30 hours later, someone took a look at my forehead and figured that the the staples were put in properly because they were done in such a rush, because the E.R. was overwhelmed.
And so I had to get it reattached. But everything should be fine now. And I think driving back from the hospital into Beirut, seeing all the destruction, it just it hit me. It really hit me or it was starting to hit me. I had been running on adrenaline yesterday, and I'm starting to I think we're all starting to reckon with the scale of the damage and to just think. Even in the best of times, this would be hard to come back from.
But. Beirut is in the middle of this deep, deep economic crisis that was already. Hard to see your way out of before this, and I just don't know how people are going to even begin to bounce back in terms of the damage to their. To their houses, to their businesses. I think it's a cliche to say, but it's also very true that Lebanon has been through so much. I mean, I don't know how people can.
Survive all that and then, you know, joke around with the person there that they're patching up right after a huge, terrifying explosion. I just don't know how you. Develop that resilience and that and that humor, I think some Lebanese would say, well, well, that's that's why because we can't live life just in fear and and looking over our shoulders. The only way that we have been able to survive this country is to be resilient. But as one of my Lebanese friends has been saying about the economic crisis, maybe there comes a point where.
Where resilience is is not a virtue, where people need to recognize that. Things won't be OK unless something changes and if it's true that, as the government is saying, this explosion was due to just this colossal failure of management, just real incompetence, then I think if the government had any credibility left and right and I don't think it did, that would destroy the last shred of it.
So tomorrow I'll try to get back into my apartment, try to get back to the neighborhood, and I've been told that my building, along with a lot of others, might collapse. So we'll see. We'll be right back. As listeners of this podcast, you know, the inside of everything, but do you know enough about you? Woop is the 24/7 health and fitness tracker, which changes that by monitoring critical daily metrics like sleep recovery, respiratory rate and strain.
It gives personalized feedback on your performance so you can reduce risk of burnout and illness. Today, WOOP is helping workers, universities and pro athletes stay healthy while returning to work in sports. Get 15 percent off a membership today when you visit joined Dotcom and use Kodaly at checkout. Here's what else you need to know today, on Wednesday, the acting inspector general of the State Department resigned less than three months after replacing the previous inspector general who was fired by President Trump after he opened investigations into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The State Department gave no explanation for the departure, but it immediately raised questions about whether the Trump administration is driving out internal watchdogs whose job it is to hold cabinet members accountable for their actions. And today, the people of St. Louis have made a decision. Yes, from all corners of Missouri's 1st District. Yes, our communities have embraced a bold, fearless vision of real change where regular everyday people like not feel like the people will.
Progressive Democrats have won a series of closely watched congressional primaries in Missouri and Michigan, highlighting their growing influence within the party.
Yeah, so let me just say it is historic that this year of all these. Yes, we're sending a black working class family from. Who defied gravity all the way to the hall? In Missouri, Corey Bush, an activist who has protested police brutality, defeated Democratic Representative William Lacy Clay Jr., a 10 term incumbent whose family had represented the St. Louis area for more than 50 years. And in Michigan, Representative Rashid Talib, an outspoken liberal, easily fended off a challenge from Detroit's moderate city council leader, Brenda Jones, to win a second term in the House.
In a statement to Leap said that her district was, quote, done waiting for transformative change, adding, they want an unapologetic fighter.
That's it for the daily unlikeable Borro see tomorrow. The capture is a new Peacocke original series that explores pressing questions about surveillance and misinformation in a post truth world seen can be deceiving, hailed by critics as a thinking man's bodyguard. The capture is a modern day spy drama set in London that begins with the arrest of a former soldier and then spirals into a thrilling conspiracy involving manipulated video evidence. All episodes of the capture are available now on Peacocke, the new streaming service from NBC Universal.
Sign up at Peacocke TV.com to stream now.