Beirut, 6 August 2020 (dpa/MIA) – France is sending police and forensic teams to Lebanon to help with investigations and logistics, French President Emmanuel Macron said shortly after landing in Beirut for a solidarity visit following a massive explosion that left the city badly damaged.
A blast, believed to be caused by the explosion of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at Beirut’s port, has killed at least 137 people and injured some 5,000. Many buildings have collapsed in the area around the port and others were badly damaged across the city and its outskirts.
While touring the area around the port, Macron was received by angry chants, criticizing him as well as Lebanese President Michel Aoun.
At Gemmayzeh Street, which used to be a lively area close to the port, a woman stood on her balcony shouting and crying: “All of you are murderers. Where were you yesterday. Where were you the day before? Where were you when these explosives were put at the port?”
Macron visited the area of the explosion and listened to some rescue workers and officials.
French investigators will be arriving later in the day, Macron said, adding that France will take further aid initiatives, at national and European level, “in the coming hours.”
France has sent a rescue team as well as a mobile health unit.
One French citizen was killed in the disaster and 24 others injured, three of them seriously, according to ministers in Paris.
Macron also called for reform in Lebanon, arguing that even apart from the devastating explosion, it is known that “the crisis here is grave.”
“It is a political, moral, economic and financial crisis whose first victim is the Lebanese people,” he said, warning that the country’s political leaders have a “historic responsibility.”
Lebanon had already been suffering from an economic crisis since anti-government protests erupted in October, and it was only worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.
Twenty tons of UN supplies that cover 1,000 trauma interventions and 1,000 surgeries arrived earlier on Thursday in Beirut, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
The UN health agency said it would distribute the supplies to hospitals across Lebanon that have been receiving patients from Beirut, as three hospitals in the city are no longer functional and two were partially damaged by the explosion.
“The legendary resilience of the Lebanese people has rarely been so severely tested,” the WHO said in a statement, noting that Tuesday’s chemical accident came on top of civil unrest, an economic crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic and the country’s burden of hosting nearly 900,000 Syrian refugees.
A Turkish military cargo plane, carrying medical supplies, equipment and a search and rescue team, also arrived on Thursday, the Turkish Defence Ministry tweeted.
“We stand in solidarity with the people of Lebanon and share their pain. We are proud to help them heal their wounds,” tweeted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s communication director Fahrettin Altun.
Aid from several countries, including Qatar, Greece and Cyprus arrived the day before.
Members of the Lebanese Red Cross, army soldiers and volunteers were still searching for people listed missing under the rubble.
“I am waiting here, I am not moving. My brother works inside the port and we have not heard of him since the explosion took place,” a woman named Fatima screamed as she stood nearby.
Civil defence workers were also busy examining building structures amid concerns that some might collapse after they were affected by the blast.
“We fear some of the badly damaged buildings will fall, that is why we are asking people to stay away,” a civil defence rescue worker said.
Germany said one of its diplomats was among those killed in the catastrophic explosion.
“Our worst fears have been confirmed,” says Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. “A member of our embassy in Beirut has been killed in the aftermath of the explosion in her home. All employees of the Federal Foreign Office are in deep grieving for their colleague.”