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'Hundreds will die': Top Beirut hospital warns of 'imminent disaster' amid fuel shortages

An urgent supply of fuel is desperately needed in coming days, says American University of Beirut Medical Centre, as army seizes petrol pumps
Lebanese soldiers are pictured at a petrol station in Beirut on 14 August after soldiers were deployed to force several stations to reopen their doors (AFP)

The American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC) has said that power outages caused by dire fuel shortages could cause hundreds of deaths in the coming days, as Lebanon's army seizes fuel from local gas stations to curb hoarding. 

The medical centre, in a statement on 14 August, appealed for an "urgent supply of fuel before [a] forced shutdown this Monday" as a result of fuel shortages brought on by the country's crippling economic crisis

"Forty adult patients and fifteen children living on respirators will die immediately," if power is cut at the medical centre, it warned. 

"One hundred and eighty people suffering from renal failure will die poisoned after a few days without dialysis. Hundreds of cancer patients, adults and children, will die in subsequent weeks and very few months without proper treatment," it continued. 

AUBMC said it was making its appeal to the Lebanese government, the United Nations and its agencies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and to all agencies and organisations able to help, urging them to "supply the medical center with enough fuel before it is forced to shut down".

Army curbs hoarding at the pump

The American University of Beirut has been rationing electricity and fuel across campus for weeks but is running out of both and will not be able to continue to supply the medical centre, it warned.

Meanwhile, Lebanon's army seized fuel from local gas stations on Saturday to curb hoarding amid severe shortages, as the central bank chief stands firm on his decision to scrap fuel subsidies. 

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Lebanon is grappling with a financial crisis branded by the World Bank as one of the world's worst since the 1850s.

Foreign currency reserves are fast depleting, forcing the central bank to scale down funding for imports in an effort to shore up the little money Lebanon has left.

The Lebanese pound has lost more than 90 percent of its value on the black market, and 78 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

On 11 August, central bank chief Riad Salameh said he would scrap fuel subsidies to ease pressure on fast-depleting foreign reserves.

His decision sparked panic, with huge queues forming outside bakeries and petrol stations as Lebanese struggled to stock up.

Fuel importers blame the crisis on delays by the central bank in opening credit lines to fund imports.

Last monthIraq signed an agreement to provide the Lebanese government with 1 million tonnes of heavy fuel oil a year in return for goods and services, which Lebanon’s caretaker energy minister, Raymond Ghajar, said would be used for electricity generation and would be enough for four months.