Devastating: the terrible aftermath of the Beirut explosion

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Smoke rises in the aftermath of a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on Aug. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
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Rescue workers help an injured man at the explosion scene that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, on Aug. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
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People evacuate a wounded person after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on Aug. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
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Updated 05 August 2020

Devastating: the terrible aftermath of the Beirut explosion

  • Dozens dead, thousands injured, hospitals overwhelmed, large part of city destroyed, toxic fumes — yet politicians are still trying to score points

BEIRUT: Beirut is a devastated city. There is no other word to describe the aftermath of a massive explosion that rocked the Lebanese capital on Tuesday afternoon, killing dozens and injuring thousands.

The blast happened at a warehouse in the port area of the city that reportedly had been used for years to store about 3,000 tons of confiscated chemicals. It destroyed everything within a radius or more than half a mile, and caused damage to buildings as far away as nine miles. Warnings were also issued about a toxic plume of smoke that blanketed the city after the explosion.

Shortly before midnight, Lebanon’s Higher Defense Council declared Beirut a disaster zone and urged the cabinet to declare a state of emergency. The eastern part of Port of Beirut is completely destroyed. The damage to the capital is catastrophic, much worse than that caused by the Israeli attacks in 2006.

Military sources said the chemicals that exploded — believed to be ammonium nitrate, a common agricultural fertilizer — were confiscated several years ago and irresponsibly stored at the port, close to residential and commercial areas, under the orders of the judiciary.

Officials warned people to avoid inhaling the smog that shrouded the city after the blast, which they said could remain in the air until at least the following day. Despite this, people could be seen wandering around the city’s downtown area taking photographs of the devastation. Some were not even wearing masks to protect themselves from the toxins.

After enduring one crisis after another — from the economic crisis that has provoked sustained street protests against political corruption and mismanagement, to the pandemic and now the explosion — perhaps the people of Lebanon have simply become indifferent to disaster.

Ambulance sirens could be heard throughout the night as paramedics and volunteers worked tirelessly to rescue thousands of people injured by the explosion and take them to overwhelmed hospitals, and recover the bodies of the dead.

A number of hospitals close to Beirut’s downtown area, especially in the eastern suburb of Achrafieh, were badly damaged by the blast, leaving scores of people dead and injured. Those in less critical conditions were moved to nearby parking lots, while those with life-threatening injuries were taken to hospitals outside of Beirut. Health minister Hamad Hassan said all treatment costs will be covered by the state.




A giant plume of smoke soared as the explosion shattered windows throughout Beirut. (AFP)

Shortly before midnight, the official death toll reached 73 but this is expected to rise, according to health officials, because many missing persons “are turning up dead or critically injured under the rubble of houses and offices that were wiped out by the blast.”

A number of government buildings were damaged, including the The Grand Serail, which is the prime minister’s headquarters, the Finance Ministry and the Telecoms Ministry. The windows of offices at the Information Ministry, which is more than four miles from the Port, were shattered by the blast.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s daughter and wife, who live in the Serail, were treated for minor injuries. His health adviser, Petra Khoury, was taken from there to hospital with cuts that required stitches.

The explosion was heard more than 60 kilometers south of Beirut. It could be felt in other countries, with the Jordan Seismological Observatory reporting that it was equivalent to an earthquake measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale.

The heads of many Arab and other foreign states pledged to provide urgent assistance to Lebanon. Yet despite the disaster, some politicians in the country refuse to put aside their political differences to focus on helping the people of the city. As Diab and President Michel Aoun called for an immediate investigation into the cause of the disaster to determine who is responsible and what assistance is needed, opposition parties were already blaming the recently-formed government.

 


UN says Sudan needs $150 million to help Ethiopian refugees

Updated 28 November 2020

UN says Sudan needs $150 million to help Ethiopian refugees

  • The conflict broke out on November 4 between Ethiopia’s federal forces and leaders of the region’s ruling party
  • Sudan has since hosted more than 43,000 Ethiopian refugees fleeing from the intense fighting into one of its most impoverished regions

UM RAQUBA, Sudan: Sudan needs $150 million in aid to cope with the flood of Ethiopian refugees crossing its border from conflict-stricken Tigray, the UN refugee agency chief said Saturday during a visit to a camp.
The Tigray conflict broke out on November 4 between Ethiopia’s federal forces and leaders of the region’s ruling party.
Sudan has since hosted more than 43,000 Ethiopian refugees fleeing from the intense fighting into one of its most impoverished regions.
“Sudan needs $150 million for six months to provide these refugees water, shelter and health services,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi at Um Raquba camp, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the border.
Grandi called on “donors to provide Sudan with these resources as soon as they can.”
Between 500 and 600 refugees are still crossing the border each day.
Sudan has sought to provide help to accommodate the mass refugee influx as it struggles with its own deep economic crisis.
The country is also going through a fragile transition since the April 2019 ouster of veteran strongman Omar Al-Bashir, after unprecedented mass protests against his rule, triggered by economic hardship.
Some 65 percent of Sudan’s nearly 42 million people live below the poverty line, according to government figures.
As the Tigray fighting rages, Grandi also voiced concern over the fate of tens of thousands of Eritrean refugees living in Ethiopia for decades.
“We don’t have access to them,” he said, urging the Ethiopian government to authorize visits by the United Nations.