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Lebanon blast: Half of Beirut destroyed or damaged; toll crosses 137

Christiane Waked (Reporting from Beirut)
Filed on August 6, 2020 | Last updated on August 6, 2020 at 06.26 am
Lebanon blast, Half of Beirut, destroyed, damaged, toll, crosses, 135
DEVASTATED: A wounded man sits on the ground waiting for aid at Beirut's port following the massive explosion. - AFP

The UAE, one of the first nations to declare solidarity, dispatched emergency medical assistance.

Half a city destroyed in a massive explosion that many likened to the atomic blasts that ripped through Hiroshima in Japan 75 years ago on August 6. More than 137 dead, 300,000 homeless, 5,000 injured and being treated in hospitals. Hundreds reportedly missing. Scenes of mourning, despair and hopelessness. It's raining misery in Beirut this summer, a city once known as the Paris of the Middle East.

Marwan Abboud, governor of the city, said the damage is extensive and estimated that it could take $10-15 billion to put Beirut and its people back on their feet again.

"A team of engineers and experts will assess the structural damage in the port area of the city in the coming days," he said even as people struggled to come to grips with this tragedy amid the pandemic.

The UAE, one of the first nations to declare solidarity, dispatched emergency medical assistance.

Almost half of Beirut has been destroyed or damaged because of the explosion at a warehouse in the port area where 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate were stored. Questions are being raised on who stored the chemical, and for what purpose. Residents are also asking what sparked it off.

Ambulances and rescue teams are still at the scene of the blast, searching for survivors and carrying bodies away. People are still trapped in houses, especially in Karantina and Gemayzeh, and official said the toll could rise.

Worse, several hospitals near the blast site have been damaged which is making it hard to treat patients. There is a danger that the structures could collapse.

The St George hospital in Achrafieh has been completely destroyed and only the shell of the building remains. Many members of medical staff as well as firefighters' lost their lives during the explosion.

Health Minister Hassan Hamad recently announced a second lockdown because of the increase in Covid-19 cases, and desperate people are now carrying the sick and maimed to hospitals as morgues fill up with corpses.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron, in a show of solidarity with the people of Lebanon, said he would visit the city today.

Earlier, President Michel Aoun said ammonium nitrate had been stored for six years at the port without adequate safety measures.

"The government is determined to investigate what happened as soon as possible," he said.

Officials blamed "inaction and negligence" by authorities who allowed the storage of the combustible chemical in the port area.

The cabinet ordered port officials involved in storing the material to be put under house arrest.


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