French President Visits Lebanon After the Blast
Countries from around the world dispatched rescuers and offered material help. Australia announced $2 million in humanitarian aid to Lebanon.
The sidelights illuminate the altar in the chapel. A priest in the liturgical vestments is slowly swinging with a thurible in the front of the altar. A moment later, he turns towards the faithful. The church visibly shakes and light is turning off. The terrified audience of the online service sees the windows falling from the chapel’s ceiling on the priest. He realises the threat but it is too late. The priest collapses being crushed by the big window.
The priest was one of 5,000 injured Lebanese after two powerful explosions of the two thousand and seven hundred tons of highly volatile chemicals ripped out part of the Beirut port and inflicted damage on the city. The number of fatalities increased to 130, stated the Health Minister Hassan Hammad.
On Wednesday, helicopters circled over shattered homes and offices while rescue workers combed through the rubble to search for the missing. Beirut’s governor Marwan Abboud said up to 300,000 people had lost their homes and that the authorities were working to give them food, water and shelter.
Hassan Diab, Lebanon’s prime minister, described the blast as a “catastrophe” and asked for international support, declaring that Wednesday would be a national day of mourning. The country’s higher defence council said Beirut was a “disaster zone” and Michel Aoun, Lebanon’s president, called for a two week state of emergency.
French President's Mission
French President Emmanuel Macron, as the first head of state, called prime minister with condolences and assurances of the solidarity. The President’s promises were not empty. Nearly two hours later three planes with rescue equipment and the medical aid departed Lyon airport.
President Macron sent words of encouragement to Lebanese in French and Arabic. “I express my brotherly solidarity, with the Lebanese people after the explosion, which resulted in a large number of casualties, and serious damage.”
Shortly after that, his office announced that Mr Macron would meet with Lebanese President and Prime Minister during his visit on Thursday.
His effort went not unnoticed by the ordinary users of Tweeter. “Emanuel Macron, a French president, have no relations with Lebanon in any way, spoke up and kept tweeting about Lebanon till 2 in the morning. Sent a huge team of professionals to Lebanon, and is coming this Thursday to Beirut. So you still follow Lebanese politicians?”, tweeted one user. “ He cares more than those disgusting species called ‘Lebanese politicians’. RESPECT”, replied the user account identified as Dana. “Thank you Mr Macron but please don't meet or visit any politician in our country. You are most welcome by people. Our politicians are criminals,” tweeted user Rana Salehi.
It is unknown what kind of help Mr Macron is going to offer to Lebanon, but some commentators suggested that he will act on behalf of the European Union, which expressed its readiness to assist.
Australia announces $2 million in aid
On Wednesday, the majority of the world countries responded with help. The European Union activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism which deploys more than 100 firefighters highly trained firefighters, with vehicles, dogs and equipment, specialised in search and rescue in the cities.
For instance, Poland sent 11 medical specialists and 43 rescuers with specially trained dogs as well as medical equipment, medicines and supplies, including a hospital tent.
Australia Foreign Minister Marise Payne announced on Wednesday evening that on response to the disaster Australia would direct $2 million in humanitarian support to Lebanon to help with the recovery.
The funding will consist of $1 million each to trusted aid partners, the World Food Program and the Red Cross movement, to help ensure food, medical care and essential items were provided to those affected by the tragedy.
"Australia and Lebanon have a strong relationship built on extensive community ties, with more than 230,000 Australians having Lebanese heritage. This tragedy will affect many people in both countries," Ms Payne said.
The shockwave from the explosion caused property damage within a radius of several kilometres, and the boom was heard in the mountains and in coastal cities at least 40km away. Reports said the state energy company’s tower block headquarters in east Beirut had been badly damaged.
The official investigation continues but the reason of blast was uncovered
Michel Aoun, Lebanon’s president, said the government was “determined to investigate and expose what happened as soon as possible, to hold the responsible and the negligent accountable, and to sanction them with the most severe punishment”.
The detailed investigation into the cause of the tragedy may follow but journalists have been able to collect evidence that excluded any terrorist attack pointing at “negligence”. Media also indicated that the responsibility for the explosion was not in the operation of the Customs Office at the port, neither the actions of the workers at the warehouse.
According to the reports confirmed by news agencies, the authorities allowed 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate to be stored at the city’s port for six years. One Lebanese media, the LBCI, even broadcasted a statement of the head of Customs Office Mr Badri. The Customs Office director informed that he notified six times the country’s judiciary that the highly explosive material stored at Beirut Port was dangerous. Mr Badri stated that his office also asked for permission to re-export these chemicals, but such permission was never granted. One report stated, that the author of the last letter from the Customs Office to the authorities warned that the chemicals could blow up half of Beirut.