Source: JOHN HAYWARD
The Lebanese Red Cross stated Wednesday that the gigantic explosion at the port of Beirut has killed over 100 people and injured over 4,000.
The governor of Beirut estimated economic damage from the explosion at $3 billion to $5 billion and said up to 300,000 people have been rendered homeless.
The Red Cross said its teams are “still conducting search and rescue operations” in Beirut and surrounding areas.
“What we are witnessing is a huge catastrophe. There are victims and casualties everywhere,” said George Kettani, head of the Lebanese Red Cross.
“There are many people missing. People are asking the emergency department about their loved ones and it is difficult to search at night because there is no electricity,” added Health Minister Hamad Hasan, who put the death toll slightly lower at 80.
Beirut governor Marwan Abboud said engineers are still working to assess the full extent of the destruction, but it is already apparent that at least half of the city was damaged.
“I think there are between 250,000 and 300,000 people who are now without homes,” he estimated.
The Associated Press reported that “scores of people” remain missing and their relatives are using social media to find them. Local radio programs are reading long lists of missing people on the air. The governor reported that at least ten firefighters have gone missing since the explosion.
“Many residents moved in with friends or relatives after their apartments were damaged and treated their own injuries because hospitals were overwhelmed,” the AP wrote. Adding to the stress on Beirut’s medical system, some hospitals and clinics that were struggling to deal with the coronavirus pandemic were damaged by the explosion, and at least one major private hospital was completely shut down.
Health Minister Hassan said lists of medical and humanitarian aid needed for Beirut have been sent to the international community, and numerous countries have responded with pledges of assistance, including the United States.
France announced it would send two military planes to Beirut with search-and-rescue teams, medical supplies, and a mobile clinic. French President Emmanuel Macron said he would personally accompany the aid flights, which should arrive in Beirut on Wednesday afternoon.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun told an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday that a two-week state of emergency will be declared. After the cabinet met, Information Minister Manal Abdelsamad said military troops will place Port of Beirut officials under house arrest “as soon as possible” while the blast is investigated and responsibility for the alleged careless handling of dangerous materials at the port is determined.