AP PHOTOS: In flash, Beirut blast tore up thousands of homes

BEIRUT (AP) — The gigantic explosion in Beirut on Tuesday tore through homes, blowing off doors and windows, toppling cupboards, and sent flying books, shelves, lamps and everything else.

Dozens were trapped under the wreckage and those who survived still cannot believe that they did.

Within a few tragic seconds, more than a quarter of a million people of the Lebanese capital’s residents were left with homes unfit to live in. Around 6,200 buildings are estimated to be damaged.

When the first blast hit, Mona al-Shami and her sister hid under a table in their apartment in Qarantina, near the center of the explosions at Beirut port. Then came the second massive explosion. “Everything flew, everything exploded,” al-Shami said. The sisters were both knocked unconscious for a few moments, before they woke up again to an apocalyptic scene.

“Thank God we are alive, but everything’s gone, our home, car, everything,” she says, breaking into tears as she stood in the middle of a bedroom littered with debris.

Said al-Assaad, 24, stands amid the destruction in his family home — a beautiful ground-floor traditional house in the historic district of Mar Mikhail facing the port.

He was in the mountains when the explosion happened. His family survived. But the neighborhood, buildings, shops, restaurants and balconies are all destroyed.

“Destruction like you never saw and will never see in your life. I never expected to see something like this, not even in a video game,” he said.

“It is beyond words, something that cannot be described. ”