BEIRUT: US Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale toured the site of the explosion that occurred in Beirut’s port on Aug. 4 on the third day of his visit to Lebanon. He seemed very stunned by the horror of the destruction. In a statement, he said: “Every sovereign state, controls its ports and its borders thoroughly and I imagine that all Lebanese would like to return to that era and not have the ‘anything goes’ atmosphere that we’ve seen in the recent years.”
“Seeing what happened with the naked eye differs from watching it on television,” Hale said.
The American official praised the “impressive international efforts, in which many countries are participating.”
A team from the FBI is scheduled to arrive today to participate in the investigations to ensure that the Lebanese get answers about and the circumstances of the explosion. “The investigation will be comprehensive and transparent, as everyone demands, especially the Lebanese people,” Hale said.
The judiciary arrested 19 people, including two former and current directors of the port, pending the referral of the file to the judicial investigator who was appointed to tackle the case.
The Lebanese are awaiting the results of the investigation conducted by a French team that arrived in Lebanon hours after the explosion to help the Lebanese army. Several foreign rescue teams have participated in the clearance operations to recover the victims trapped under the rubble. Many of those who were working in the vicinity of the blast are still missing.
The death toll has so far reached 173 dead and 6,000 injured. More than 80,000 homes have been damaged.
The Engineers’ Syndicate, the Engineering Authority of Beirut Municipality and private engineering companies are undertaking surveys of the affected area to find out which buildings need to be demolished.
Meanwhile, humanitarian air bridges with Lebanon continue to provide it with medical and relief aid.
Opposite Beirut’s port, a French helicopter carrier carried a unit of French military engineers in and engineering vehicles and equipment to clear debris from the site of the explosion.
The Lebanese army said: “The French helicopter carrier is also loaded with medical and food supplies, building materials, and two vehicles designated as a gift to the Lebanese Civil Defense.”