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At 6pm on August 4 2020, I was at home in Beirut, working on an article about Lebanon’s faltering banking system. Without warning, I felt the world shudder. Assuming it was an earthquake, I ran to a door frame, bracing for the walls to collapse. Instead, the back windows of my apartment exploded outwards in a hail of glass.

In the momentary quiet that followed, I noticed papers fluttering through the air from the office building opposite. Then I heard our building’s caretaker scream for his son.

We were incredibly lucky. My neighbourhood is a mile south of the blast’s epicentre, where dozens were already dead. The explosion had shredded buildings and flung adults through the air like dolls. The wounded who could walk rushed towards partially destroyed hospitals inside the blast zone, where they found…

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