US to send three aid flights to Lebanon

Relief supplies including food, water and medical equipment are being sent to Lebanese people

TOPSHOT - A helicopter try to put out multiple fires at the scene of the massive explosion that hit Beirut's port on August 4, 2020 in the heart of the Lebanese capital. Rescuers searched for survivors in Beirut on August 5 after a cataclysmic explosion at the port sowed devastation across entire neighbourhoods, killing more than 100 people, wounding thousands and plunging Lebanon deeper into crisis. / AFP / -
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US Central Command on Thursday said it was sending three shipments of aid to Lebanon after the explosion that shattered half of the city of Beirut.

The head of Centcom, Gen Frank McKenzie, made the announcement after speaking to the head of the Lebanese army, Gen Joseph Aoun.

“Gen McKenzie informed Gen Aoun of the impending delivery of three C-17 shipments of US relief supplies including food, water, and medical supplies,” Centcom said.

This will be the first of several packages that the US is considering.

The aid will be substantial and directed to Lebanese relief organisations, not the government, sources told The National on Wednesday.

Earlier on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had spoken to Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab.

“The secretary reaffirmed our steadfast commitment to assist the Lebanese people as they cope with the aftermath of this terrifying event,” the State Department said.

Mr Pompeo also called former Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri.

“By direct order of President Donald Trump, the United States will be sending immediate assistance to Lebanon starting within the next 24 to 48 hours," the Lebanese embassy in Washington posted on social media.

“This assistance will cover a wide range of Lebanon's needs, from humanitarian to infrastructure aspects."

Grandmother plays piano amid rubble

Grandmother plays piano amid rubble

Meanwhile, high-ranking officials on Wednesday continued to debate the cause of the explosion.

The White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, repeated Mr Trump’s speculation that the explosion could have been an attack.

“Hopefully it was just a tragic accident and not an act of terror, but they are still looking at all the intelligence on that,” Mr Meadows told CNN.

Earlier in the day, US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper disagreed with Mr Trump and said it was most likely an accident.

“Most people think it’s an accident. That's all I can say on that,” Mr Esper said at the Aspen Security Forum.

Mr Meadows responded: “From Secretary Esper’s standpoint, he doesn’t know."

Tuesday’s devastating explosion came as Lebanon continued to grapple with the worst economic crisis in its recent history.

The US, France and the International Monetary Fund have urged Mr Diab’s government to carry out reforms to address rampant corruption before receiving any bailout package.

Talks with the IMF have stalled as the government in Lebanon has not introduced reforms in its seven months in power.