AFP, 05TH AUGUST, 2020 - Emergency medical aid and pop-up field hospitals were dispatched to Lebanon Wednesday along with rescue experts and tracking dogs, as the world reached out to the victims of the explosion that devastated Beirut. The blast centred on the city’s port caused massive destruction and killed more than 100 people, heaping misery on a country already in crisis.
Gulf states were among the first to respond, with Qatar announcing it was sending mobile hospitals to ease pressure on Lebanon’s medical system, already strained by the coronavirus pandemic.
A Qatari air force plane with a cargo of hundreds of collapsible beds, generators and burn sheets touched down in Beirut in the first of a convoy of flights to the Mediterranean country.
Medical supplies from Kuwait also arrived, as the Lebanese Red Cross said that more than 4,000 people were being treated for injuries after the explosion, which sent glass shards and debris flying.
A Greek C-130 army transport plane bearing a dozen rescuers landed at Beirut’s airport, itself damaged in the catastrophic explosion.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab has called on “friendly countries” to support a nation already reeling from its worst economic crisis in decades as well as the impact of the coronavirus.
As emergency crews hauled survivors from the rubble of demolished buildings, France said it was sending search and rescue experts aboard three military planes loaded with a mobile clinic and tonnes of medical and sanitary supplies.
President Emmanuel Macron is to travel to Lebanon on Thursday, to “meet all political actors” following the catastrophe, his office said.
“France is at the side of Lebanon. Always,” Macron tweeted in Arabic earlier. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said in a message to his Lebanese counterpart that Tehran was “ready to offer medical and medicinal aid and help treat the injured”. Jordan’s King Abdullah II also promised to dispatch a field hospital.
Cyprus -- which lies just 150 miles (240 kilometres) to the northwest and was shaken by Tuesday’s blast -- said it was sending eight police tracking dogs and their handlers aboard two helicopters, to help in the search for victims. Dutch authorities announced that 67 aid workers were headed for Beirut, including doctors, police officers and firefighters, and the Czech Republic dispatched 36 rescuers including dog handlers trained to seek out those trapped in ruins.
Close allies and traditional adversaries of Lebanon alike sent their condolences, with Iran and Saudi Arabia -- long rivals for influence over the country -- both sending messages of support. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the great and resilient people of Lebanon,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted.
“Stay strong, Lebanon.” Saudi Arabia said it was following the situation with “great concern”.
Unusually, neighbouring Israel offered humanitarian aid -- to a country with which it is still technically at war -- via international intermediaries.