A DEVASTATED teacher living in Beirut today told of the terrifying scenes that unfolded when the city's port exploded, killing more than 135 people and injuring at least 5,000 more, as she declared: "I fear for the future".

Food supplies have been decimated and around 300,000 people have been left homeless following the devastating blast - some of them friends of Rebekah White, whose family live in Weymouth.

Speaking exclusively to the Dorset Echo, the 31-year-old described a city in chaos and heartbreak in the aftermath of the explosion, which was caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate - an explosive used as fertiliser in agriculture - that had been stored unsafely in a warehouse.

Rebekah had been at her home in Bsaba with her husband and two children, the youngest just three months old, when the port exploded. The force was so great, it was felt more than 150 miles away in Cyprus.

Shocking video footage captured from scene has been shared around the world, showing a plume of smoke rising from a fire on the port before the huge explosion.

Rebekah, who is also mother to a two-year-old, said: "The explosion felt like an earthquake but the ground wasn't shaking. The curtains blew inside the house even though the windows were shut because of the pressure caused by the explosion.

"Nationwide, the mood is just one of heartbreak. Civilians and volunteers from the Red Cross are helping the injured by taking them to hospitals and doctors are working through the night in the streets using the torches from their phones for light.

"I have friends who have loved ones in hospital and I know people who have lost their homes. It is devastating."

Damage to a Beirut home taken by a friend of Rebekah's family, Marc Hardini


Rebekah, a science teacher at Lebanon Evangelical School for Girls and Boys, has had news that the mother of one of the school students has been killed in the explosion. She said: "The mum of a special needs student was killed in the explosion as she was working nearby. The student is 18 years old but she only has the mental age of a six-year-old. I don't know what this loss is going to do to her."

Rebekah has three younger siblings living in England. She was on a video call to one of her sisters when the port exploded. Her sister, Grace, looked on Twitter and showed Rebekah footage of the explosion before she had a chance to go outside and see it for herself. Rebekah said: "I'm so pleased I was on the phone to my sister at the time and I told her to contact our mum and tell her that myself and my two children Katie, two, and Thomas, three months, were fine."

Rebekah's grandparents, Gordon and Brenda Peach, of Drake Avenue, Chickerell, saw the explosion on the news.

Gordon said: "We haven't spoken to Rebekah since the explosion happened but we have spoken to her mum so we know that she is safe. It was very scary seeing the explosion on television."

Lebanon is going through an economic crisis which has seen the country go into hyperinflation. Individuals and families have lost their life savings and unemployment stands at more than 25 per cent. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has put a strain on the people of Lebanon and Rebekah fears that the devastation caused by the explosion may be too much for them to cope with.

She said: "We have been struggling so much anyway going into lockdown; inflation is at more than 50 per cent, there is massive unemployment and we have got shortages of food and fuel. With this explosion on top of all of that I don't know how much more the people of Lebanon can handle.

"No one has much faith in the government at the moment as there has been no support through the pandemic and none through the inflation. On a talk show it was reported that the government has known about this container being dangerous for six years and hasn't done anything about it. We don't want to believe that could be true."

Fear and panic ensued after the explosion as attention turned to helping the injured. Now fears have turned to the futures of those who have survived.

Silos containing grain supplies were destroyed in the explosion which has damaged the port beyond repair. Lebanon imports more than 80 per cent of its food supply and Rebekah has seen panic rise as people fear food shortages.

Rebekah said: "The explosion took out a wheat silo and now everyone is manically shopping because they think we won't have enough food. We have already been really struggling for supplies during the coronavirus crisis and now to have this source of nourishment gone is causing everyone to panic.

"I don't know if I will be able to get food for my children.

"I feel like I have got a foot on my chest and I can't breathe. I'm terrified at what the long-term effects on the country will be. The phrase I can only use to explain how much exhaustion and terror people are feeling is 'how much do we have to bend before we break?'

"I am scared for my child

"In this country struggle is very normal and people live through it, overcome it and try to make the best of things but it is getting too difficult. Children are starving and now people have lost their homes and their loved ones.

"This explosion has tipped the scales of everyone's emotions and we don't know how much more we can take. Government negligence leaving 2,000 tonnes of explosives on the port and not doing anything about it is worse than war because our own government has betrayed us."