Beirut explosion: City in shock amid destruction
Lebanon's health ministry on Thursday confirmed that the Beirut port blast killed at least 137 people and left at least 5,000 wounded.
Dozens of people continue to be missing and unaccounted for.
French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Beirut on Thursday.
His aides have said that Macron will call for deep change to help build a "new Lebanon."
"The aim of the president's visit is to believe the idea that Lebanon is alone, sunk and about to disappear," an adviser to Macron told Reuters.
"It will be an occasion to try to give hope to the Lebanese, tell them there's a way, and that France is there to walk alongside them."
At least four Bangladeshi nationals were killed and around 100 others were injured in the deadly explosion in Beirut, Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) reported on Wednesday, citing officials at the Bangladeshi Embassy in Lebanon.
Among the injured were 21 Bangladeshi naval personnel who were on duty at the Beirut port, the epicentre of the explosion, for a UN peacekeeping mission.
Among the injured Bangladeshi expatriates, eight are undergoing treatment at hospitals.
"On behalf of the embassy, we are supervising their (expatriate Bangladeshis) treatment as well as providing them financial support," the Bangladeshi envoy in Lebanon said, according to BSS.
There are roughly 170,000 Bangladeshi expatriates living in Lebanon, according to estimates.
Beirut's governor Marwan Abboud told Al Hadath TV on Wednesday that collective losses after the blast may reach anywhere from $10bn to $15bn, including both direct and indirect losses related to business.
The governor also told the news organisation that amounts of available wheat are currently limited - 15,000 tonnes of wheat had been stored at the port's silos - and he thinks a crisis might take place without international interference.
The impact of the explosion on the economy could cause further falls in the lira, which has dropped from LL1,507 to the dollar to over LL8,000, which would make imports even more expensive.
The disaster is the third shock to hit the country since protests erupted in October 2019, and the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
An Iraqi delegation headed by the country's oil minister met Lebanese prime minister Hassan Diab on Wednesday and informed him that Baghdad will provide fuel aid to Beirut after the blast, according to a statement from the Lebanese government.
Iraq is also sending wheat supplies to Beirut that will arrive on Friday, Lebanese local media reported.
Some 15,000 tonnes of wheat had been stored at the silos of the Beirut port, which was the epicentre of the explosion.
US defence secretary Mark Esper said the Beirut blast was an "accident", contradicting a claim made by President Donald Trump that the blast as an "attack".
"Most believe that it was an accident, as reported. And beyond that, I have nothing further report on. It's obviously a tragedy," Esper said during a virtual interview at Aspen Security Forum on Wednesday.
The Pentagon chief added that Washington has reached out to the Lebanese government to offer assistance, including humanitarian and medical aid.
"We're positioning ourselves to provide them whatever assistance we can, humanitarian and medical supplies... It's the right thing to do," he said.
Three other US defence officials told CNN that there was no indication that the incident was an attack, and said they were unsure where the president got that information.
One US citizen was killed and several others were injured in the blast in Beirut, a State Department spokesperson told CNN.
"All US Chief of Mission personnel in Beirut are safe and accounted for and US Embassy Beirut is open," the spokesperson said on Wednesday.
"We offer our sincerest condolences to their loved ones and are working to provide the affected US citizens and their families all possible consular assistance," the spokesperson said.
"We are working closely with local authorities to determine if any additional US citizens were affected. Out of respect for the families at this difficult time, we have no further comment."
Amnesty International has called for an independent investigation into Beirut's deadly blast that killed more than 100 people and wounded thousands.
Julie Verhaar, acting secretary-general of the UK-based rights group, said: "Whatever may have caused the explosion, including the possibility of a large amount of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely, Amnesty International is calling for an international mechanism to be promptly set up to investigate how this happened.
"Amnesty International also calls on the international community to urgently increase humanitarian aid to Lebanon at a time when the country was already struggling with the severe economic crisis, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic."
A Qatari aircraft touched down in Lebanon's capital on Wednesday with two field hospitals and medical aid to help assist injured individuals, according to the Qatari embassy in Beirut.
The field hospitals are equipped with around 500 beds, along with respirators and other medical equipment needed to treat patients suffering from injuries from Tuesday's massive chemical explosion.
Qatar's ruler Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani wished "a speedy recovery for the injured" in a phone call with Lebanese President Michel Aoun.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab and reiterated Washington's "steadfast" commitment to assist the Lebanese people, the State Department said.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon said it would postpone its verdict in the trial over the 2005 bombing that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri to August 18, following the explosion at Beirut's port.
Beirut's two-week state of emergency means the military now has powers to impose house arrest on anyone involved in the running of the warehouse in Beirut port which contained the Ammonium nitrate.
Lebanon's cabinet also approved a new fund worth 100 billion Lebanese pounds to help deal with the crisis.
Given the latest rate on the parallel market, the fund is worth approximately 13 million US dollars.
Lebanon's government has declared a two-week state of emergency in Beirut.
This latest measure was announced during a cabinet meeting with the state of emergency meaning the Lebanese military has full control of the capital.
A ray of hope in the carnage Lebanon has witnessed over the last 24 hours. Individuals in Lebanon have offered their homes and hotels to give shelter to victims of the Beirut explosion.
MEE's video team has done a compilation of how Beirut's residents reacted to Tuesday's blast.
From the blast's impact forcing a Lebanese bride to go to the floor to the domestic worker flying to rescue a child in her care.
Ashrafieh’s St George Hospital was particularly badly hit, Jonathan Dagher reports.
The blast killed 17 people in the hospital, including nurses, patients and visitors. Officials say 80 percent of the building has been damaged.
The lobby’s ceiling has collapsed, the ER is out of service and volunteers are frantically clearing up glass.
“It’s a total disaster,” says George Saad, responsible for emergency preparedness and disaster management.
“We felt the earth shake, and then the blast hit. It was tragic,” says a security guard who was on duty at the ER.
With Lebanon already suffering from a devastating economic crisis, many worry about how the port explosion will further worsen an already dire situation.
The port “was the beating heart of the country”, Sami Halabi, director of knowledge and co-founder of Triangle Consulting in Beirut, told MEE on Wednesday.
With foreign currency having dried up, importers had already been struggling to pay for goods, reflected in imports dropping by 50 percent this year. The impact of the explosion on the economy could cause further falls in the lira, which has dropped from LL1,507 to the dollar to over LL8,000 in less than a year, which would make imports even more expensive.
“How will businesses start up again when there are capital controls that don’t let people take money out of banks? And with a fluctuating black market rate for currency? It’s a complete disaster,” said Laury Haytayan, a Beirut-based expert at the National Resource Institute.
Rayyane, a Beirut resident, spoke to MEE's Heba Nasser about volunteer efforts to help clean up the popular and historic Gemmayzeh neighbourhood and distribute food aid in the area.
"It makes me sick to my stomach thinking about people who have lost everything, and loved ones who are nowhere to be found. I don’t know what to say”, the 25-year-old told Middle East Eye.
"As rescue missions continue and they clear more streets, there will be more work for all of us to do. This will take a very long time. It's heartbreaking."
Buildings and cars in Gemmayzeh, an area close to Beirut Port, were heavily damaged by Tuesday's explosion.