Dr. Israa Selbani was simply posing for a wedding video when suddenly a deafening blast in Beirut interrupted everything. The explosion almost knocked the 29-year-old, who works in the U.S., off her feet, but it did not stop her from helping others hurt by the blast on Tuesday, which killed 135 people. Selbani's video went viral on social media, providing a shocking view of the blast in Lebanon's capital.
Selbani arrived back in Beirut three weeks earlier to marry Ahmad Subeih, a 34-year-old businessman based there. A day after the explosion, the couple told Reuters they are still shaken. "I have been preparing for my big day for two weeks and I was so happy like all other girls, ‘I am getting married’. My parents are going to be happy seeing me in a white dress, I will be looking like a princess," Selbani explained. "What happened during the explosion here - there is no word to explain ... I was shocked, I was wondering what happened, am I going to die? How am I going to die?"
A Lebanese bride posed for photographs moments before a massive warehouse explosion sent a devastating blast wave across Beirut pic.twitter.com/dFTxR9gO8J— Reuters (@Reuters) August 5, 2020
After the blast, Selbani rushed to help others before she left Beirut's Saifi square. There was broken glass from hotel windows on the ground, as well as the remnants of their flower arrangements. Subeih said it was hard to describe the scene and the sound of the blast. "We are still in shock ... I have never heard anything similar to the sound of this explosion," he said, adding that he feels "so sad" about what happened to Lebanon. "When I woke up and saw the damage that happened to Beirut, the one thing I said was thank God we are still alive."
Afterward, Selbani and Subeih tried to keep their celebrations going. They even had to go back into the damaged hotel to get their passports. "My husband told me to continue, we can’t stop. I was like okay, why not, we continue," Selbani told Reuters. "I was not living the moment actually, I was like walking, my face was smiling, my lips were smiling, that’s it, not more. Then we went to have a dinner."
Selbani's wedding video was filmed by photographer Mahmoud Nakib, who told The New York Daily News that no one from the wedding party was injured. However, he got a firsthand look at the devastation the blast caused. "I didn’t know the smell of blood before, but yesterday, I knew what blood smelled like," Nakib said. "In one moment, in one second, Beirut fell. In one moment, everything was fallen."
Lebanon officials said the blast was due to almost 2,750 tons of confiscated ammonium nitrate, which was being stored at Beirut's port without adequate safety measures. According to Reuters, the chemicals arrived in the city on a Russian-leased cargo ship in 2013. The ship's captain said he was told to make an unscheduled stop in Beirut to pick up more cargo on its way from Georgia to Mozambique. The ship never left Beiruit though, due to disputes over port fees.