UK to send £5 million emergency package to Lebanon following Beirut explosion

5 August 2020, 19:02

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The UK will send a £5 million emergency package to Lebanon following the explosion in Beirut on Tuesday, the Foreign Office has announced.

At least 135 people were killed and more than 5,000 injured following the blast that left the Lebanese capital devastated and has forced the country into a two-week state of emergency.

Much of the port area of the city was flattened with many buildings seriously damaged after the explosion sent a huge mushroom cloud into the sky.

Following the disaster, Britain has offered to immediately deploy search and rescue experts with specially trained dogs to help find those caught up in the aftermath.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab spoke with the Prime Minister of Lebanon Hassan Diab in a phone call, during which the minister promised up to £5 million in emergency humanitarian funding to help people made homeless by the tragedy.

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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “This was a devastating explosion which has caused enormous suffering and damage.

"The UK is a long-standing friend of Lebanon and the Lebanese people and will stand with them in their hour of need.

“We have offered immediate direct support including search and rescue, emergency medical assistance and up to £5 million in humanitarian aid.”

As part of the support, the UK will also offer enhanced support to the Lebanese Armed Forces who play a vital role in the country's response to the devastation.

This will include tailored medical help, strategic air transport assistance, and engineering and communications support.

It will also send an Emergency Medical Team, including NHS experts, to provide assistance to search and rescue teams in Lebanon.

Read more: 300,000 people left homeless by Beirut explosion as damage costs top $3 billion

Read more: Shocking satellite images show devastation caused by Beirut explosion

International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “We have all been shocked by the scenes of devastation and suffering in Beirut. My heart goes out to all those who have been affected by this tragedy and who have lost loved ones.

“The UK stands ready to support the people of Lebanon in their time of need and has offered to send medics and rescue workers to treat those who have been injured.”

Although the cause of the blast has not been made clear, local media have reported that an accidental explosion linked to the storage of dangerous chemicals - ammonium nitrate - is responsible.

However, US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that American military officials felt it may have been a bomb attack.

The Lebanese government has put an unspecified number of Beirut port officials under house arrest pending an investigation into how 2,750 tonnes of explosive ammonium nitrate came to be stored at the port for years.

On Wednesday morning the Lebanese Red Cross said at least 100 people have died and more than 4000 have been injured.

President Michel Aoun said 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate had been stored unsafely in a warehouse for six years.

He scheduled an urgent cabinet meeting for Wednesday and said a two-week state of emergency should be declared.

Video taken at the moment a building exploded, showed a huge shockwave moving across the city with a bang which was heard and felt as far away as Cyprus - more than 125 miles (200km) away.

It struck with the force of a 4.5 magnitude earthquake, according to Germany's geosciences centre GFZ.

Pictures showed devastation after the blast sparked fires, overturned cars and blew out windows and doors.

Hours later, ambulances were still carrying away the wounded as army helicopters helped battle fires raging at the port.