About five minutes before 6pm (15:00 GMT) on Tuesday, Beirut’s fire brigade received a call from the police, who told them that witnesses had spotted smoke billowing out of the city’s port.
First Fire Lieutenant Raymond Farah was the one to receive the call. “I told them that I won’t send out my fire trucks before knowing what kind of fire it is. I need to know what’s there,” he told Al Jazeera media
“An officer from state security called and said it was a hangar with just fireworks. Hearing that, and based on the order of the commander of the firefighters, I gave the order to go.”
Immediately, a team of 10 – got into a fire truck and an ambulance and turned out towards the port, a short drive from their quarters. They were waved through the port’s gates by army personnel stationed at its doors.
Farah was in close contact with them. “They called after they arrived and said, ‘There’s something wrong here; there is a crazy sound and a huge fire.'”
The team asked for additional companies. Farah rang the fire bell and those on duty also responded – running downstairs to where the fire apparatus is. Farah watched a driver get in one fire engine and slam the door – and then the explosion hit.
“First the air hit us, then it was very hot. Not two stones were left on top of each other in the fire command centre,” Farah said.
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