Baby George, born amid Beirut blast, is ‘light in the darkness’

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George Khnaisser, whose mother was in labour at the moment of the Beirut port blast, lies on a changing table at the family home in Jal el-Dib, Lebanon, August 12, 2020. (Reuters)
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Hospital staff works using torches while a baby named George is delivered, as the blast wave hit the hospital in Beirut, Lebanon August 4, 2020 in this picture obtained from social media. (Reuters)
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Emmanuelle Lteif Khnaisser who was in labor at the moment of the Beirut port blast, holds her baby George at the family home in Jal el-Dib, Lebanon, August 12, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 12 August 2020

Baby George, born amid Beirut blast, is ‘light in the darkness’

  • "George is very special. He is the light in the darkness, a birth in wreckage," Edmond said
  • Seventeen people died in St. George hospital right after the blast and dozens were injured

BEIRUT: Stepping into the delivery room where his wife Emmanuelle was about to give birth, Edmond Khnaisser meant to capture their son's first moments on camera.
Instead, he recorded the instant the biggest blast in Lebanon's history sent whole windows crashing onto his 28 year-old wife's hospital bed.
"I saw death with my own eyes...I started feeling 'is it over?' I was looking around and at the ceiling, just waiting for it to fall on us," Emmanuelle said, recollecting the direct aftermath of the massive blast that injured 6000 and killed more than 170 people in Beirut on Aug. 4.
Brushing off blood and shattered glass, medical staff instinctively carried Emmanuelle into the corridor, fearing another explosion could follow.
About to faint and shaken to the core, Emmanuelle said she knew she had to focus on giving birth.
"He has to come to life and I have to be very strong," she told herself.




Hospital staff works using torches while a baby named George is delivered, as the blast wave hit the hospital in Beirut, Lebanon August 4, 2020 in this picture obtained from social media. (Reuters)


Right after the blast, Stephanie Yacoub, chief resident of obstetrics and gynecology at St. George Hospital University Medical Center, had run out the room to help an injured nurse.
But it was too late and the nurse died. Yacoub hurried back to Emmanuelle straight away to help her give birth, along with Professor Elie Anastasiades and a team of medics.
"There was no electricity and the sun was starting to set, so we knew we had to get this done as soon as possible. And with the use of people's phone lights, he came into the world," she told Reuters a week after the blast.
Seventeen people died in St. George hospital right after the blast and dozens were injured, including Edmond Khnaisser’s mother, who suffered six broken ribs and a punctured lung.
Running back and forth between his wife and his mother, Khnaisser said he had one objective in mind, to get his new son George to safety.
As they got into strangers’ cars and out of the blast’s perimeter, the extent of the destruction started to sink in.
They eventually made it to a hospital right outside of the capital where George was finally bathed and cleaned.
"George is very special. He is the light in the darkness, a birth in wreckage," Edmond said, showing pictures of his son on the Instagram page he created for the boy they now call "miracle" baby George.


Reaction to pandemic ‘showed strength, resilience of world’s great cities’

Updated 2 min 29 sec ago

Reaction to pandemic ‘showed strength, resilience of world’s great cities’

DUBAI: The reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic showed the strength and resilience of the world’s great cities, Fahd Al Rasheed, president of the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, told civic leaders at the opening of the U20 Mayor’s Summit.

“It was in this moment of utmost need that our urban centers demonstrated their inherent flexibility, agility and resilience. Many cities were able to transition to a virtual world almost overnight. We truly saw the strength and resilience of our cities, and humanity as a whole,” Al Rasheed said.

He was welcoming delegates at the virtual opening of the U20, the urban track of the G20 leaders’ organization, which is under the presidency of Saudi Arabia this year. Representatives of some 42 cities, as well as 30 thought leaders in urban planning, policy and economics, are attending the event organized from Riyadh.

Al Rasheed said that cities were “perhaps mankind’s greatest invention”, but warned that there would be long-term repercussions from the onslaught of the pandemic and the economic lockdowns that have resulted.

“It has impacted the world in a very dramatic way, and of course altered our way of life. Travel plans have been curtailed, families separated, businesses upended job lost, mental health strained, and we’ve lost many loved ones,

“Everything has been altered, but our productivity has not slowed. Indeed, as the U20 has shown, in many ways we are actually working closer than ever, despite being cities, countries or continents apart,” Al Rasheed added.
 

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Some urban experts have forecast the “end of the city” as a result of the pandemic, as travel restriction and social distancing measures lead to an exodus of employees to less densely populated areas.

But cities would continue to thrive, he said, because “we are social creatures who do our best work and achieve our highest form of self when we are together.”

“Cities give us so much more than just community. They give us communities of scale on the delivery of services of all kinds.

They give us healthcare systems, education, entertainment and pubilc transit services on a level we cannot afford on our own.

“While this pandemic has forced us into social distancing and to productively digitise many of our daily routines, we as humans need to connect pysically and congregate in order to enoy and afford a better way of life,” he said.

Rather than question the future of cities, policymakers should ask: “How can we best enable cities to adapt to this, and to future shocks?”

Al Rasheed said the answer was investment in resilience. “The importance of investing in the resilience, of our cities and our citizens, is the major takeaway from this unprecedented disruption.”

Maimunah Sharif, executive director of the United Nations urban organization habitat, said she was “extremely concerned about the multiple devastating effects of the pandemic on the most vulnerable people in cities, especially in crowded areas.”

But she pointed out that more than half of the world’s population now live in cities, which account for nearly 80 per cent of global gross domestic product. “Cities are powerhouses of economic growth, and function as catalysts for inclusion and innovation,” Sharif said.

Maimunah Sharif, executive director of the United Nations urban organization habitat. (Supplied)

“We need to create global gender balance and provide prosperity and well-being for the rapidly growing, aging, and culturally diversifying global urban population, while reducing waste and protecting the ecosystems all people depend on. There can be no sustainable development if urbanization is not sustainable,” she added.

The U20 culminates on Friday in the publication of a joint communique signed by the leaders of 37 cities, which will be submitted to the G20 leadership for consideration as an element of the final summit communique.