US official promises help to Beirut

US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale speaks to journalists from the port of the Lebanese capital Beirut on August 15, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 16 August 2020

US official promises help to Beirut

  • David Hale praises the ‘impressive international efforts, in which many countries are participating’

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.

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A team from the FBI was set to arrive on Saturday to participate in the investigations to ensure that the Lebanese get answers about and the circumstances of the explosion.

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.”

 

 


Lebanon finds four bodies after deadly sea crossing

Updated 59 min 59 sec ago

Lebanon finds four bodies after deadly sea crossing

  • UN peacekeepers retrieved one body and rescued 36 people from a boat in trouble in international waters off the Lebanese coast
  • Families of the survivors said the boat had been adrift without food or water for around a week
BEIRUT: Lebanon has retrieved the bodies of four people including a child after they tried to flee the crisis-hit country by sea on an overloaded dinghy, the civil defense said Monday.
A week ago, UN peacekeepers retrieved one body and rescued 36 people from a boat in trouble in international waters off the Lebanese coast.
Families of the survivors said the boat had been adrift without food or water for around a week, during which time several passengers had died or jumped overboard to find help.
The bodies are presumed to be from the same ill-fated crossing.
Since Friday, “we have retrieved four bodies — belonging to two Lebanese, one of whom was a child, a young Indian man and a Syrian man,” Samir Yazbek, the head of the civil defense’s sea rescue unit, told AFP.
The bodies were found in four separate locations off the north and south coasts of the country, and the search was ongoing, he added.
The UN refugee agency said last week that 25 Syrians, eight Lebanese and three people of other nationalities had been rescued from the boat.
It is unclear how many men, women and children originally clambered aboard the dinghy, and therefore how many are still missing.
On Saturday, the navy said it would step up its searches within and outside Lebanon’s territorial waters to find any other victims.
Relatives of those who went missing from the impoverished north Lebanese city of Tripoli say the people smuggler involved in the crossing has dropped off the radar since the tragedy.
They have filed three legal complaints against the man, who they say is a well-known figure in the community.
A military source on Saturday said a person acting as an intermediary between passengers and the boat owner had been arrested.
In recent weeks, dozens of Lebanese and Syrians have tried to make the perilous sea journey from Lebanon to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, authorities on both sides say.
The Republic of Cyprus, a European Union member, lies just 160 kilometers (100 miles) away.
Lebanon is in the throes of its worst economic crisis in decades, compounded since February by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
It is also reeling from a monster blast at Beirut’s port last month that killed more than 190 people, ravaged large parts of the capital and reignited public anger against the political class.