French President Macron arrives in Beirut to show support after blast

France and other countries have send emergency aid and search-and-rescue teams.
French President Emmanuel Macron(Reuters photo)
French President Emmanuel Macron(Reuters photo)
Updated on Aug 06, 2020 03:03 PM IST
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Beirut | ByAssociated Press | Posted by Niyati Singh

French President Emmanuel Macron has arrived in Beirut to express support for Lebanon in the wake of a massive explosion that tore through the capital earlier this week. France and other countries have send emergency aid and search-and-rescue teams.

But Lebanon, which was already reeling from a severe economic crisis, will need substantial international support to rebuild. The blast killed at least 135 people, wounded thousands, and obliterated Beirut’s port.

Lebanese army bulldozers plowed through wreckage to reopen roads around Beirut’s demolished port Thursday, a day after the government pledged to investigate this week’s devastating explosion and placed port officials under house arrest.

The blast Tuesday, which appeared to have been caused by an accidental fire that ignited a stockpile of ammonium nitrate at the port, rippled across the Lebanese capital, killing at least 135 people, injuring more than 5,000 and causing widespread destruction.

It also may have accelerated the country’s coronavirus outbreak, as thousands flooded into hospitals in the wake of the blast. Hundreds of thousands have been forced to move in with relatives and friends after their homes were damaged, further raising the risks of exposure.

French President Emmanuel Macron was expected to visit later Thursday amid pledges of international aid. But Lebanon, which was already mired in a severe economic crisis, faces a daunting challenge in rebuilding. It’s unclear how much support the international community will offer the notoriously corrupt and dysfunctional government.

Losses from the blast are estimated to be between $10 billion to $15 billion, Beirut Gov. Marwan Abboud told the Saudi-owned TV station Al-Hadath on Wednesday, adding that nearly 300,000 people are homeless.

The tiny Mediterranean country was already on the brink of collapse, with soaring unemployment and a financial crisis that has wiped out people’s life savings. Hospitals were already strained by the coronavirus pandemic, and one was so badly damaged by the blast it had to treat patients in a nearby field.

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