As the sun rose over Beirut on Wednesday morning, the full apocalyptic extent of the damage was finally revealed. The area surrounding the capital’s port looked as though it had been the stage for weeks of brutal fighting.
The smoke had passed and the wounded had been moved off the streets but the pavements were spattered with blood and thick with shattered glass. Outside one Beirut hospital, a small crowd of people gathered after a gruelling night.
They all had the same lost look on their face as they stared at the still bloodstained floor, struggling to comprehend what had happened the night before.
They were all waiting for the same thing: to pick up the bodies of their dead relatives and friends. Sitting in a line on a wall, five young men began to sob and hug each other.
Six had become five for the tight-knit group of 23-year-olds when port-worker, Yusef, was killed in Tuesday's Beirut explosion.
After a night of searching, they had finally found him, and they would have to bring his body home to his parents. “The last time we heard from him, he had texted us all a video he had taken of the first explosion at the port,” his friend, also named Yusef, told The Daily Telegraph.
The second explosion happened barely ten minutes later, sending shockwaves for miles across the capital, prompting a group of his friends to race to the port.
“We went down to the port but they wouldn’t let us in. So we divided into several cars and started going to all of the hospitals to see if he was there.”
The undertakers stepped over a puddle of blood that was still soaking into the floor from the night before, giving a subtle nod to Yusef’s friends to follow him to the car as they carried his coffin.
“We became friends in kindergarten and went all the way through to our graduation, which was supposed to have been this semester,” his friend said, unable to hold back his tears.
The tragedy of Tuesday night was the biggest explosion Beirut has ever seen and brought about the physical collapse of a city that during recent months has been collapsing in every other aspect.
In sweltering 30 degree heat, the civil defence began digging through the rubble of collapsed buildings early in the morning.
For the few buildings that had completely collapsed, after hours of digging, for the most part, only limp and lifeless bodies were pulled from their homes.
Speaking to the Telegraph 24 hours after the blast, one civil defence worker said that now they are only finding corpses if sent to a collapsed house - there are no survivors.
As one man was pulled out of the rubble alive after spending 15 hours buried, the volunteer forces erupted into joy, jumping to take selfies with the man.
The references to 9/11 are on everyone’s lips.
With the death toll currently standing at 135 dead and over 5,000 injured, the shock of how close thousands of people came to death is palpable across the city.
It’s hard to forget the scale of the tragedy. Every few seconds, ambulance sirens heighten the uneasy atmosphere that has settled across the city.
Packing what is left of their homes into cars that no longer have windows and were bent out of shape by the force of the blast, the Beiruitis who can afford to are escaping to the mountain villages. For many families, who have lived in this city that has been shaken by tragedy over the decades, this is not the first time they have had to flee.
Feeling that the state won’t step in to help the rescue effort, the Lebanese on Wednesday took to the streets of Gemmayze, one of the worst-hit and most well-off areas, to try and clean it up.
Harking back to the days of the protests late last year, tents were set up by mid-day to distribute shovels, sweeping brushes, bin bags and gloves.
As the people rallied and tried to dust themselves off, Beirut formally entered a state of emergency as most of the streets around the area most affected by the blast were shut.
Beirut has seen a civil war, assassinations, occupations, economic collapse and a pandemic - but nothing appears to have shaken the Beiruitis spirit as much as this explosion.
“Lebanon had already taken almost everything I had built away,” said a mechanic in the port area. “Then yesterday, the remnants were blown away. Now I have nothing and no way to rebuild my life.”