Lebanon is a country still numb with grief.
Almost a week after the catastrophic blast, hundreds of families are still waiting for the news they already know.
Others have managed to hold funerals but the constant pain of loss never disappeared.
Sahar Fares was killed in the blast, while responding to the fire – a paramedic in a team of firefighters.
Her mother told me, while fighting back tears, how she would never be able to forgive the people responsible for her daughter’s death.
“What can I say? It’s such a huge loss. We would have fun in the house, her and her siblings, laughing and joking. It’s such a huge loss.
“Whatever they do in Lebanon what good is it for me? My daughter has gone in the prime of her life – 26 years old.
“I raised her for 26 years – only for it to go in one night. What can I do? May God not forgive them for what they did.”
Sahar was one of the first people at the scene.
A group photograph was taken just as her unit responded to the fire at Beirut port. It was more than a routine call but nothing too dangerous, they thought.
You can tell by their smiling faces that they certainly had no idea they were rushing towards a blast that would be as powerful as an earthquake.
Her sister, Maria, pulls out her phone and shows me on an aerial photograph – taken before the explosion – where they found her sister’s body.
Sahar was on a video call to her fiance reassuring him she was okay and that he should not worry about her when the first blast happened and she attempted to run to safety.
All of the firefighters and paramedics at the scene did not stand a chance.
Maria said: “Sahar is not going to come back and live with us and be with us again. Although I really wish that I could have seen her one last time so I could hug her and say goodbye. I couldn’t. I didn’t see her.”
Her extended family have been gathering throughout the week to mourn and pay their respects to a young life cut short.
Sahar’s brother-in-law, Elie Makhlouf, says the Lebanese government have blood on their hands. They as good as murdered her through their corruption and their callousness, he says.
“She was betrayed. They killed her. They killed her dreams. They killed her future. Does any father send his sons to die? To death? She’s working for the country, she’s working for the nation,” he raged.
At the port – where the thousands of tonnes of ammonium nitrate were negligently stored before they exploded – the search is continuing for the victims.
Most of the firefighting team Sahar was with – along with many others – are still missing.
Sniffer dogs from international rescue teams are still tracking across the scorched earth but no one here expects to find anyone alive.
Lebanon’s three days of official mourning may be over but the suffering does not stop.
For Sahar’s family they want an international investigation into what they have called a crime against humanity but they say in a country like theirs they will probably never know the truth or get justice.
In the latest developments from Beirut:
- It is now thought that as many as 160 people were killed in last week’s explosion, with more than 6,000 injured. Many of those still missing are thought to be foreign workers, mainly Syrians. Some 45 Syrians are also among the dead.
- International donors have pledged €225.7m (£203.7m) in emergency aid but there are concerns about how to ensure it is not diverted in a country notorious for missing money, invisible infrastructure projects and lack of financial transparency.
- The head of the International Monetary Fund has said the organisation will not hand over funds until all of Lebanon’s institutions show willingness to carry out reforms. Kristalina Georgieva said: “We need unity of purpose in Lebanon, we need all institutions to come together determined to carry out much needed reforms. Commitment to these reforms will unlock billions of dollars for the benefit of the Lebanese people.”
- Lebanon’s environment minister Kattar Demianos has resigned – the second cabinet minister to step down after the explosion. He said he was resigning in solidarity with the victims.
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