UN assesses damage of Beirut blast, plans alternative aid routes

Thursday, 2020-08-06 14:27:51
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Rescuers search for survivors after the explosions in Beirut, Lebanon, Aug. 5, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)
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The United Nations, which has more than 100 people injured in the devastating Beirut explosion, is assessing damage and planning alternative aid operations, a UN spokesman said on Wednesday (August 5).

Among the injured were about 22 members of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), including those from the Maritime Task Force of the mission, who were in the port when the blast occurred Tuesday (August 4), said Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

A ship of the Maritime Task Force docked in the port was damaged, leaving some UNIFIL naval peacekeepers injured, some of them seriously, he said.

"We expect that the damage of the port will significantly exacerbate the economic and food security situation in Lebanon, which imports about 80 to 85 percent of its food," Haq said. "This is a place that's used both for goods for Lebanon but also for some of our activities in Syria."

"We'll need to assess how that damage affects our deliveries and how we can redirect, in the short term, more of our activities through the airport rather than through the seaport," the spokesman said. "Obviously, the loss of the port will affect our activities."

The United Nations is working closely with the Lebanese government to support all ongoing response efforts, particularly in the delivery of emergency medical assistance, said Haq. Support for hospitals and trauma response capacity is a top priority.

The World Health Organization is working with Lebanon's Ministry of Health to assess hospital facilities in Beirut, their functionality and needs for additional support, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specialists are being dispatched to Beirut to assist in the emergency response, both from the United Nations and several countries, Haq said. Experts also are on the way to support urban search and rescue operations.

"We're heartened to see the declarations of support from different governments around the world, and we hope that all of the governments and all of us can stand beside the Lebanese people," said Haq. "We need to remember that the people of Lebanon have been extremely generous and extremely helpful for many years."

Lebanon has taken in tens of thousands of refugees from Syria, and there has been a long-time Palestine refugee population in Lebanon, he said. "These are people who have given a lot of support to others, and this is a time when they themselves will need help, and we will certainly try to give it to them as much as we can."