Photography

In the aftermath of Beirut’s devastating explosion

It was just around 6 p.m. on Aug. 4 in Beirut when an estimated 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer and bombmaking ingredient, detonated in an enormous blast that engulfed the city, killing at least 200 people and injuring more than 6,000. The shock waves reverberated beyond the immediate tragedy of lost lives and homes.

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

The dangerous material had been stored in a warehouse since being seized by customs authorities in 2014, despite repeated warnings from port officials that it posed a risk.

Its ignition seemed to encapsulate everything that is wrong with Lebanon at this point in its turbulent history: a weak state, inept government, corrupt officials and, many said, the existence of a parallel state run by the powerful Hezbollah movement, as well as other Lebanese factions that used the port for smuggling operations.

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

Washington Post contract photographer Lorenzo Tugnoli documented the immediate aftermath of the explosion, from the unprecedented damage inflicted on the city to the many lives lost.

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

An injured man stands inside the wrecked port of Beirut after a massive explosion in a warehouse containing thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate.

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

Firefighters and helicopters carrying water work to put out fires that engulfed other Beirut warehouses after the explosion.

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

A firefighter at the scene of the explosion, which wrecked several densely populated neighborhoods, killed at least 180 people and injured over 6,000. Among the dead were 10 firefighters.

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

A warehouse burns after the explosion. Measures taken days before the blast to secure the warehouse containing ammonium nitrate and other explosive materials hampered firefighting efforts.

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

A soldier attends to an injured woman near the port of Beirut. More than 6,000 people were hurt.

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

Policemen search the building of a Lebanese electrical company looking for survivors.

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

An elderly woman is carried to safety in the destroyed neighborhood of Jemmayzeh. The blast wrecked several densely populated neighborhoods.

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

Many houses in the historic neighborhood of Jemmayzeh were destroyed and abandoned.

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

Family members attend the funeral of Chadi Abou Chakra, who died in the collapse of a building.

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

Protesters clash with security forces in central Beirut during a demonstration against the government. Documents reviewed by The Washington Post and interviews with officials and experts involved in investigating the explosion suggest that neglect, ignorance and stifling bureaucracy played a major part in the tragedy.

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

A clock in a damaged house shows the time when the explosion stopped it.

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

Soheila Abi Salloum weeps outside a Christian Maronite church in Karantina, a low-income, semi-industrial neighborhood of Beirut that suffered the worst effects of the explosion.

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post

Lorenzo Tugnoli/Contrasto for The Washington Post