Beirut explosion: international community offers aid for victims

Prime Minister Hassan Diab appeals for urgent help and says Lebanon is witnessing ‘real catastrophe’

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Planes around the world loaded with experts and aid began taking off for Beirut, which was devastated by a huge explosion that damaged almost half the city, left 300,000 homeless and thousands wounded or dead.

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab appealed to the world to send help as the country comes to grips with the crisis that compounds its economic meltdown, growing unemployment and poverty, and coronavirus.

“We are witnessing a real catastrophe,” Mr Diab said on Wednesday, adding that those responsible for the blast at Beirut’s port would pay the price.

Egypt said it already opened a field hospital in the Lebanese capital to receive the wounded and relieve pressure on the damaged and stretched local health services.

Jordan's Royal Court said it was flying in a military field hospital, and all necessary personnel, to Beirut on Wednesday to help.

Iraq said late on Tuesday night that it would send a plane loaded with emergency medical aid.

A plane carrying 40 tonnes of medical equipment was due to take off from Dubai on Wednesday to help Beirut's hospitals treat thousands of wounded patients.

Two French military planes are being sent by Paris with 15 tonnes of sanitary equipment, a mobile clinic equipped to treat 500 people and rescue experts to help find people trapped in the rubble.

They are expected to reach Beirut in the late afternoon with 55 civil security personnel on board, the French president's office said.

The 55 personnel are specialists in post-disaster rubble clearing and rescue, and France is working to "identify additional needs" in Beirut.

Paris has already vowed additional support for the government as needed.

Dozens of emergency personnel will also be sent to reinforce hospitals in Beirut, France said.

Russia's emergency officials are sending five planeloads of aid, rescuers, medical workers a makeshift hospital and a lab for coronavirus testing.

Poland sent a team of about 50 firefighters, including 39 rescuers with four dogs and a chemical rescue module, on Wednesday morning.

A Greek military transport plane also headed to Lebanon with a search and rescue team, special equipment and a sniffer dog.

Authorities in Athens said they were ready to help Lebanon “with all means at its disposal", while Cyprus said it would send help.

The Czech Republic's Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said Lebanon has accepted an offer to send a team of 37 rescuers with sniffer dogs to Beirut.

Denmark says it is ready to provide humanitarian assistance.

Officials say the explosion resulted from the ignition of a huge depot of ammonium nitrate at Beirut's port, but many questions remain unanswered.