PARIS – Lebanese designers were left picking up the pieces on Wednesday after a massive warehouse explosion in the port of Beirut sent a shockwave across the capital, killing at least 100 people and injuring nearly 4,000, according to news reports.
Maison Rabih Kayrouz posted video footage on Instagram Stories of its headquarters, located in the elegant 19th-century Dagher Palace in the Gemmayze district of Beirut, reduced to rubble by the blast.
Only a single white mannequin in a white dress is left standing in the space, littered with concrete and glass debris, as sirens can be heard wailing outside.
“Why why why !!!!!! F— who ever did that !!!!” reads a caption at the start of the video. A worker is shown picking up clothes and placing them on a rack. “Our courageous team trying to save … what could be saved !!!” the caption reads. It ends with a view of the building from the street, and a close-up of a blood-spattered shirt.
A spokeswoman for the brand said Kayrouz and his team were all safe. The designer moved into the new venue, which combines his atelier, couture salon and ready-to-wear boutique, on his label’s 20th anniversary last year.
The Elie Saab building in Beirut’s Central District has also been devastated by the explosion, although the designer and his teams escaped unscathed, a spokeswoman for the brand said. “Everybody was at the office when it happened,” she said of the blast, which ripped through the district at around 6 p.m. local time on Tuesday.
“Everybody is in a state of shock from what happened, but it’s more for the country than for the material damage,” she added. “This is really a disaster.”
The explosion hit the country in the midst of a profound economic and political crisis that has caused food prices to soar and the currency to plummet. After a series of protests last year against a government that critics say is endemically corrupt, Lebanon went into lockdown in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Zuhair Murad is another designer whose headquarters were gutted by the blast, which officials have blamed on a cache of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at the port. The Vogue Arabia web site posted an image of the building, also located in the Gemmayzeh district, an area known for its fashionable bars and restaurants.
The designer could not immediately be reached for confirmation.
Video footage shows what appears to be the ABC Mall’s Achrafieh location – home to brands including Emporio Armani, Banana Republic, Benefit, Hugo Boss, Dior, Givenchy, Maje, Massimo Dutti, H&M and Tommy Hilfiger – extensively damaged, with a pool of blood visible on the floor.
“Following today’s unforeseen circumstances, ABC Malls and department stores will be closed temporarily. Our prayers are with all victims and their families. #PrayforLebanon,” the shopping center said in a post on its Facebook page.
Makeup artist Hala Ajam posted footage on Instagram of her store, with its windows blown out. “We are all okay,” she said. “And I am so sorry for the loss of those who didn’t survive. I love #lebanon but I am so tired.”
Georges Hobeika, whose headquarters are located a little further away from the center in the surburb of Sin el-Fil, managed to escape unscathed. “The atelier and team are safe and sound. We are all devastated,” a spokesman said.