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Beirut blast live updates: Half of city affected by damage

August 5, 2020

An explosion ripped through the port in the Lebanese capital and up to 300,000 people are now homeless. Rescue teams are searching through the rubble for survivors. Follow DW for live updates.

An aerial view shows the massive damage at Beirut port's grain silos (C) and the area around it on August 5, 2020, one day after a massive explosion hit the harbour
Image: Getty Images/AFP

  • Two-week state of emergency declared after blast destroys Beirut's port
  • Port officials under house arrest as answers are sought over massive stockpile of volatile chemical ammonium nitrate, seemingly present since 2014
  • Hospitals struggle to cope with thousands of wounded
  • At least 135 killed and 5,000 others injured, according to Lebanon's Health Ministry
  • The blast damage extends over half of the city
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel "dismayed" by the explosion

All updates in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)

23:55 Barring major developments, this likely brings our live coverage of developments in Beirut on Wednesday to a close. Our item compiling the most pertinent information we know thus far is here:  Beirut blasts: Here's what we know so far

22:33 The World Bank Group said on Wednesday that it would deploy a reconstruction plan for Lebanon after a damage and needs assessment. The financial institution said that it was willing to "reprogram existing resources" and explore additional financing for Lebanon to rebuild the lives of people affected by the explosion.

With a debt-to-GDP ratio of 152%, Lebanon is the world's third most indebted country as a share of its economic power, after Japan and Greece.

21:04 Germany has dispatched search and rescue specialists to Lebanon to assist seeking survivors trapped beneath rubble of the explosion. 

Timo Eilhardt, chief of operations at of Germany's THW civil protection organization, said there is normally a good chance of finding survivors more than 72 hours after a disaster.  

''Which means we can expect to find people for another two to three days,'' Eilhardt said. 

Some 50 THW staff members flew out of Frankfurt late Wednesday, bringing along search dogs and 15 tons of specialized equipment to help locate people below collapsed buildings.

20:50 US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper indicated that consensus currently points towards an accident in Beirut, a day after President Donald Trump cited conversations with generals and intimated that they thought it might have been an attack.

"Most believe it was an accident as reported," Esper said on during a virtual appearance at the Aspen Security Forum.  

The defense chief expressed his condolences to the victims and said the US was ready to offer assistance to Lebanon. 

Esper is the second official to address the explosion without backing the US president's claim. Trump had said that unnamed generals "seem to feel" the incident was an attack.

20:35 The Israeli city of Tel Aviv lit its city hall with the flag of Lebanon, in a gesture of solidarity with a neighboring country with which it is technically at war. 

"Humanity precedes any conflict, and our hearts are with the Lebanese people in the wake of the terrible disaster that befell them," Tel Aviv's Mayor Ron Huldai said on Twitter. 

Tel Aviv's city hall lit up with the colors of the Lebanese flag. August 5, 2020.
The explosion had followed tense weeks in the regionImage: picture-alliance/dpa/I. Yefimovich

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had previously extended his condolences to the Lebanese people and offered humanitarian aid to the neighboring country. Netanyahu said he had reached out to the UN to offer aid through indirect channels. 

But not all Israelis welcomed Tel Aviv's city hall gesture of solidarity. Israel's minister for Jerusalem affairs, Raffi Peretz, who is a member of the far-right Jewish Home party, condemned the move. 

"It is possible and necessary to provide humanitarian aid to civilians who were hurt in Lebanon, but waving an enemy flag in the heart of Tel Aviv is moral confusion," Peretz wrote on Twitter. 

The prime minister's son, Yair Netanyahu, called the decision ''simply insane" on Twitter.

''Lebanon is officially an enemy state. By law, it is a criminal offense to fly an enemy flag,'' he claimed. Israel's legal code contains no such law.

Israel and Lebanon are still technically at war, with their enmity dating back to the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Their most recent serious clash was in 2006, when Hezbollah and Israel fought a month-long conflict involving airstrikes and ground forces.

19:02 Raymond Tarabay from the Beirut office of German aid organization Malteser International told DW that it had assisted with the flow of injured people, following the blast. 

''There was a huge load on the other hospitals in the area. So all primary health care centers were asked to open the doors for injured people. And that's what we did,'' Tarabay said. 

Humanitarian aid needed in Beirut: Raymond Tarabay (Malteser International) speaks to DW

''So we took dozens of injured people to our primary health care center and treated them with first aid and stuff like this,'' he added. 

Tarabay said the German aid hospital received people with a variety of injuries that ranged from glass wounds, cuts, burns and broken bones. Many with more serious injuries were sent to larger hospitals, as the Malteser organization could only cope with first-aid injuries. 

The medical emergency was largely taken care of in Beirut, Tarabay said. But now, he urged international donors to focus their aid on shelter, food, and other basic assistance needs.  

''We need homes. We need people to open the houses and international donors to contribute to this catastrophe that has happened yesterday,'' Tarabay added, noting that more than 200,000 people had been left homeless after the explosion. 

18:20 A UN spokesperson said around 100 members of its staff and their dependents were injured in the explosion and that two relatives of UN employees were killed. 

"They're getting treatment and we hope that they will be alright," Farhan Haq told reporters, expressing condolences to colleagues who lost family members. 

"We know that we're just a small fraction of the people who were hurt in this and we hope that all of those who are injured, all of those who are suffering will recover," he added. 

18:01 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has offered his country's assistance in a call with Lebanon's Prime Minister Hassan Diab. 

Pompeo expressed a "steadfast commitment to assist the Lebanese people as they cope with the aftermath of this terrifying event," a State Department statement said. 

The remarks follow President Donald Trump's remarks on Tuesday, when he speculated that the explosion might have been an attack. "It was a bomb of some kind, yes," Trump told reporters, saying he spoke to US generals about the blast. 

But Pompeo made no references and called the event a "horrible explosion," without venturing to describe the cause. 

The secretary of state "further stressed our solidarity with and support for the Lebanese people as they strive for the dignity, prosperity and security they deserve." 

Pompeo did not elaborate on how the US would help Lebanon. In the past, the Trump administration has been hesitant about supporting an aid package from the International Monetary Fund, insisting on reforms and the exclusion of Hezbollah, the pro-Iranian militia and political party. 

17:10 A UN-backed tribunal suspended a verdict on the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafic Hariri following the deadly blast in Beirut, the court said in a statement. 

The court located outside The Hague, Netherlands, was supposed to deliver a decision on Friday, but now the ruling has been postponed until August 18. 

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) "is deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic events that shook Lebanon yesterday," the court said in a statement. "The Tribunal expresses its solidarity with the Lebanese people in these difficult times." 

The court's flag was flown at half-mast "to honor those who lost their lives, who were wounded and who are still missing as a result of the explosion in Beirut," the statement added. 

Lebanon had been bracing for the verdict in the case of four men linked to Lebanon's Shia Islamist group Hezbollah, who are not in custody and are being tried in absentia. 

They are charged with planning and arranging the bombing that killed former Prime Minister Hariri 15 years ago. 

16:20 Hundreds of Lebanese residents have flocked to social media to offer shelter to strangers affected by the explosion. According to Beirut's governor, up to 300,000 people have been left homeless by the blast. 

With the hashtag #OurHomesAreOpen in both Arabic and English, social media users offered up spare beds and empty properties to victims — providing their names, phone numbers and details on the size and location of the accommodation. 

The founder of ThawraMap, a platform originally used to identify protest locations, has repurposed the app to curate a list of available beds for the needy, including free accommodation from hotels. 

"Today a lot more people are going to be homeless. They go to their family or friends for a day or two and then what are they going to do?" ThawraMap founder told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, declining to publish his name for safety. 

ThawraMap's shelter list has been posted on Twitter and Instagram, it includes a frequently updated map with dozens of locations offered so far. 

15:02 The Lebanese government has declared a two-week state of emergency, granting the military full powers during this period. The measure was declared following a meeting by the country's Cabinet. 

Among the first actions, the Cabinet took was instructing the military to place an unspecified number of Beirut port officials under house arrest. This is reported to include any officials involved with the administration of the warehouse since 2014.  

An investigation is underway to determine how the warehouse came to hold some 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate for years and what set off the explosion, amid speculation that negligence could have played a role. 

Lebanon's Cabinet also approved the allocation of some 100 billion Lebanese pounds to deal with the crisis, which is worth approximately $66 million (€55 million) based on the official exchange rate. But the sum is effectively worth some $13 million based on the latest rate on the parallel market. 

14:35 Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said the country's embassy in Beirut suffered damage in the explosion, but reported that all staff members were safe.  

Norway has offered 25 million kroner ($2.74 million) and 40 tons of medical equipment in the aftermath of the huge explosion.

''The situation is pretty confusing right now. In the coming days we will know more about what is needed in the long-term need,'' Soereide added.

13:28 German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been left "dismayed" by the blast in the Lebanese capital.

"I was very dismayed to learn of the severe explosion in Beirut, which has claimed many victims," wrote Merkel in a letter of condolence to the Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab.

"In this difficult time, you can count on the help and support of the German government," Merkel added.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the German newspaper Bild that he had been in contact with his Lebanese equivalent about "how Germany can now help quickly and without red tape."

"With the German Armed Forces and our humanitarian workers, we are looking at how we can provide further help for clearing up and supplying the civilian population," Maas said. "The images of the devastation in Beirut hit us right in the heart, they hurt."

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier wrote to his Lebanese counterpart Michel Aoun.

"The images of the massive destruction in the middle of the city shook me deeply," Steinmeier said, as part of a message where he also expressed his condolences to the family and friends of the victims.

"I wish you and your citizens strength and confidence in these difficult times."

13:01 The chief executive and director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), Volker Perthes, has told DW that it is "important for Europe that Lebanon becomes a stable country again," in the wake of the deadly explosion in Beirut.

The Middle East expert has called on the IMF, the World Bank, and the EU to "speed up negotiations" over economic support and reforms of the political system.

'Protests will increase'

Perthes also warned that Lebanon's problems will have an impact on Europe, saying: "Economic, political and social crises do not tend to stay inside that country, but migrate, in a way, to Europe."

In the near future, the international affairs specialist expects that "protests against the government and the way Lebanon is governed will increase."

He added the main question now "is whether the Lebanese political elite is prepared to give up some of their privileges, some of their fiefs, and actually get into a conversation with Lebanese civil society about reform in the country."

12:07 French President Emmanuel Macron will travel to Beirut on Thursday and will meet the country's senior political figures, his office has announced.

Macron, who spoke to Lebanese President Michel Aoun shortly after the explosion at the port, has already sent emergency assistance to the country.

Lebanon is a former French protectorate and, as a result, France maintains close relations with the country through political and economic ties.

11:25 The EU has expressed its "shock and sadness" after the "deadly explosion" while pledging to send "over a 100 highly trained firefighters, with vehicles, dogs and equipment."

The European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic said: "We share the shock and sadness of the people of Beirut following the deadly explosion that has taken many lives and left many more injured. Our condolences go to all those that have lost loved ones.

"At this difficult time, the European Union offers its full support to the Lebanese people."

The bloc is activating its civil protection system to round up emergency workers and equipment to help Beirut. The Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Poland and the Netherlands have already agreed to take part and the EU has called on others to join.

11:20 Gulf states including Qatar and Kuwait have dispatched aid to Lebanon. Kuwait's ministry of health said aid arrived by military plane on Wednesday morning, and the Kuwaiti Red Crescent said it would offer whatever help Lebanon needed.

Meanwhile, Qatar's state news agency QNA said the country had dispatched a first military plane carrying medical aid. Three more planes are expected to follow later in the day, containing two field hospitals of 500 beds each and equipped with respirators.

Turkey has also pledged to send aid. Its Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) is helping to search for survivors, digging through debris to look for people and recover bodies. "We are providing assistance with one ambulance to transfer patients," said Mustafa Ozbek, an Istanbul-based IHH official. "We may provide help according to the needs of the hospital."

Meanwhile neighboring Cyprus additionally offered to send medical aid and teams to Lebanon. "Cyprus is ready to accept injured persons for treatment and send medical teams if required," Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides told state broadcaster CyBC.

Christodoulides added that the Cypriot embassy in Beirut, which was closed at the time of the blast, was extensively damaged. The explosion was heard throughout Cyprus, which is located around 100 miles (160 kilometers) away from Lebanon.

Iraq is set to send six trucks of urgent medical supplies and an emergency medical team, according to the country's health ministry spokesman. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi also offered his condolences, according to a statement from his office.

Karte Beirut Explosion EN

10:59 Several international troops and the Dutch Ambassador to Lebanon were among those seriously injured in the blast.

People serving in the United Nations Interim Force and the Bangladesh Navy were injured in the explosion.

Bangladesh's military said 21 Navy members of the multinational force were wounded, one of whom is in a critical condition. Bangladesh Navy members have been working in Lebanon with the UN force since 2010 to prevent entry of illegal arms and ammunition.

Additionally, Italy's defense minister Lorenzo Guerini said that one soldier assigned to Italy's contingent in Lebanon was injured. Italy is the second largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon after Indonesia, with 1,021 troops deployed.

The wife of the Dutch ambassador to Lebanon was also seriously injured in Beirut, the Dutch Foreign Ministry said.

A spokesman said she had been admitted to hospital and that the explosion had caused significant damage to the Dutch embassy, also wounding four other people connected to it.

10:30 Lebanon's main grain silo at the port was demolished in the explosion along with the wheat inside, leaving the beleaguered country with less than a month's reserves of the grain, the economy minister said.

Raoul Nehme said that Lebanon needed reserves for at least three months to maintain food security. However, after the blast there are only enough reserves for "a bit less than a month" for a nation of more than six million people.

The explosion was the most powerful ever to rip through Beirut, leaving the harbor a wreck, disabling the main entry port for imports to feed the country.

Read more: Lebanon faces its worst crisis since the civil war

10:18 Germany has announced it is sending an urban rescue team to Beirut. The Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) will help with efforts to "search and recover" people from the wreckage, a spokesman said after a meeting of the German government's crisis unit.

The team will consist of 47 people and could leave as early as today, the spokesman added. It will "support the crisis management of the embassy" with deliveries and services.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has contacted his Lebanese counterpart, the spokesman added.

The Netherlands, Czech Republic and Russia are all sending in rescue teams to help in treating the wounded, as well as aid the search for survivors among the rubble.

Dutch authorities said 67 aid workers were heading for Beirut, including doctors, police officers and firefighters.

The Czech Republic's team, which is also en route, includes a unit of the fire brigade which is specialized in rescuing people buried after such explosions. The unit includes five search dogs with their handlers and 30 additional staff.

Meanwhile, emergency medical aid from Kuwait has arrived in Beirut.

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab has called on "friendly countries" to help a country already reeling from its worst economic crisis in decades and the coronavirus pandemic.

Qatar announced it would send field hospitals to ease the pressure on Lebanon's buckling medical system.

10:05 International reactions and offers of help are pouring in, including offers from Israel. Read more here:  Beirut blast: Condolences and aid pour in for Lebanon after deadly explosion

10:02 Up to 300,000 people are homeless according to Beirut governor Marwan Abboud. He also added that more than $3 billion (€2.53 billion) worth of damage has been caused and that over half of the city has been affected.

09:50 Welcome to our live coverage of the aftermath of the Beirut blast. Read how the blast happened here: Powerful explosion rocks Lebanon's capital Beirut, scores killed, thousands injured