Nikola al-Akiki is still in shock as she recalls what happened a few days after the explosion that destroyed buildings across Beirut.
Al-Akiki is a nun who manages the Wardieh hospital, located just metres away from the port where the blast occurred.
Her health facility in the Gemaziyeh district was badly damaged by the explosion at the city’s port, which left at least 160 people killed and 6,000 injured.
Al-Akiki herself was wounded, but today her sadness is due to the death of one of her nurses. She also worries as most of her staff were injured too.
She was tearful as she recalled what happened and occasionally had to stop and sip water.
“In the space of just a few minutes, the hospital was reduced to rubble, no ceiling, no windows, nothing was left,” she said.
“In that horrifying moment, our sole aim was to save our patients, though staff were wounded too,” she said.
Al-Akiki said all she could focus on was saving a baby born just an hour before the blast.
“One of our brave nurses, who was injured, managed to grab the baby before a window fell onto his bed. She ran down the damaged stairs and brought him to safety,” al-Akiki said.
Seeing nurses and doctors running for the exits, some carrying patients and others with babies, felt like a “horror movie,” she said, holding her rosary.
Beirut has several hospitals, three of which were seriously damaged that day.
At Saint George Hospital, Edmond Khneiser’s baby George was born 15 minutes after the blast.
“That moment was supposed to be special, but it was a nightmare,” Khneiser told dpa by phone.
Khneiser’s wife was going into the delivery room when the blast occurred, leaving the whole hospital damaged and without electricity.
“Suddenly, it all went dark. There was rubble everywhere. We didn’t know what had happened. We thought at first the blast was inside the hospital,” Khneiser said.
Some of the staff in the delivery room were wounded but the doctor said, “we will go ahead.”
“The doctor and nurses used their phone flashlights to deliver my baby safely,” Khneiser said.
Fearful for his wife and baby, he was also worried about his mother, who was wounded while in the hospital’s waiting room.
“Nurses helped my wife out of the delivery room while they cleaned my baby. Then they brought us through the rubble to an area outside where they were receiving people hurt in the blast,” he said.
He carried baby George as two nurses helped his wife to a safe place, before the family was transferred to another facility.
“God gave me a miracle and I am thankful,” Khneiser said.