Lebanon: UK embassy withdraws some staff due to fuel crisis

Shortage has caused extended power cuts and affected essential services

The moon rises over Lebanon's capital Beirut, as much of the city remains in darkness during a power cut.  AP Photo
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The UK embassy in Lebanon said on Friday that it was temporarily withdrawing some staff from the crisis-hit country.

This is due to crippling fuel shortages that have led to power blackouts and scenes of violence at petrol stations.

The announcement came in an update on travel advice to Lebanon on the embassy website.

“Due to specific issues with the reliability of fuel supplies and the impact on critical services in Lebanon, some staff and dependents in the British embassy are being temporarily withdrawn,” said the embassy statement.

“The embassy will continue to carry out essential work.”

UK embassy officials in the capital Beirut were not immediately available for comment.

The UK embassy is the first to publicly announce the withdrawal of staff in Lebanon due to the crisis.

Earlier this week, a senior European diplomat told The National that their offices had no electricity to operate after 5pm and on weekends, hampering consular services.

Essentials including fuel, medicine, food and water are becoming increasingly scarce in Lebanon as a result of a financial crisis that began in 2019.

The state's electricity supply has dwindled to about an hour a day in Beirut, and operators of private generators are struggling to fill in the gap because of diesel shortages.

Prolonged power cuts have had a knock-on effect on critical services, including healthcare and water treatment.

Businesses and restaurants have been forced to shut.

The UN children's fund said on Saturday that more than four million people across Lebanon faced critical water shortages or being completely cut off from safe water “in the coming days”.

“Unicef is calling for the urgent restoration of the power supply – the only solution to keep water services running,” it said.

Lebanon’s fuel shortages worsened last week when the central bank announced it would stop subsidising imports.

The government has yet to set new prices, and chaotic scenes broke out at petrol stations across the country, despite the army’s deployment to supervise fuel distribution.

Gunfights have erupted between motorists, who sometimes queue for hours for limited stocks of fuel or leave their cars parked in front of petrol stations overnight, causing massive traffic jams.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Thursday that the party had arranged for shipments of fuel from Iran – which is under US sanctions.

Shortly after his announcement, US ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea told Saudi Arabian news website Al Arabiya that she was talking to Egypt and Jordan in a bid to find a solution to the fuel crisis.

Updated: August 21, 2021, 1:09 PM