BEIRUT (AP) — As black smoke billowed into the sky, Shiva Karout stepped out of his gym with his colleagues and customers to watch. His gym, Barbell House, sits just across the coastal highway from Beirut’s port where a fire raged. They were curious.
Then a first boom shook them, and curiosity turned to fear realizing how close they were. “We got a bit scared, and we all went back in,” Karout recounted. Tense moments passed, waiting inside, and one of his customers panicked and ran out. Karout went after him.
That was when hell erupted. A gigantic explosion threw up a towering mushroom cloud and sucked out the air, and a wave of destructive energy shot across Lebanon’s capital.
The force threw Karout to the ground. He was cut and bruised, his full arm and leg tattoos of the Hindu god Shiva, after whom he is named, were punctured with lacerations and clotted blood.
But his gym — and everyone still in it — took the brunt of the blast. It smashed out the windows, knocked holes in the walls. Blood now stains the welcome counter. One of his clients took a major head injury and lies in a coma in a hospital and nearly a dozen others sustained medium to serious injuries.
That flashing instant, when a heavy fire on the horizon turned into an unimaginable burst of megatonnage, united Beirutis in a shared trauma and on Wednesday, the day after, they were still reeling with it and its aftermath.
In multiple videos posted on social media, whether shot from high-rise balconies or nearby streets, that instant hits with the same blunt force: Rising black smoke, then a sudden freight…
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