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First the floor shook, very slightly, almost imperceptibly. A quick search around confirmed the feeling: the cabinets in the house were moving.
One second, two seconds, three and it stopped.
There was a moment of stillness, and then there was a blast that shook the earth.
This time the whole building shook, but that was nothing compared to the noise.
And that happened more than 10 km from the epicenter of the explosion in Beirut.
There was an instinctive movement of leaning out of windows to see where the cloud of smoke was rising in the capital. Then came the flight instinct: what if there is another explosion?
For many, it was the most intense detonation they had ever heard. And it’s not that the explosions in Lebanon are out of the ordinary.
On the road leading to Beirut from the north, ambulances stumbled through the traffic jammed by all those rushing to hear from their relatives and friends.
On the other road, cars were speeding by in the opposite direction, escaping from hell.
With traffic paralyzed, radio and cell phones carried horrifying news of overwhelmed hospitals, thousands of injuries and a wildfire.
Those heading towards Beirut were forced by the army to turn around or continue on foot if they wished.
Broken glass creaked under footfalls on the last stretch of road before entering the city, and a tractor roared past as it cleared piles of debris.
The buildings were almost unrecognizable, with shattered window frames and no light.
A few mute figures emerged from the darkness, some wounded but walking, others sitting staring and almost in total silence.
The closer to Beirut, the darker.
Fire in the port
It all started with a fire in the port. The exact moment the flames started is still unclear.
Around 5:54 p.m. local time, a message on Twitter from a correspondent for the American newspaper Los Angeles Times showed smoke rising into the sky.
What happened next has been seen in the videos that have circulated on all social networks. An initial explosion sent debris into the air and thicker, darker smoke.
Then flashes appear, similar to fireworks. An intense area of flames can be detected under the smoke.
35 seconds after the first detonation, a second massive explosion occurs. An immense column of dark reddish smoke rises, followed by a white mushroom cloud.
The consequence has been dozens of deaths and thousands of injuries. The heart of the city was destroyed.
The origin of everything? A warehouse with nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate, a chemical sometimes used to make explosives.