After the explosion in Beirut, an international donor conference for Lebanon will take place on Sunday afternoon. The President's Office in Paris announced that the video conference organized by France and the United Nations to collect donations for humanitarian aid in Lebanon will start at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
French President Emmanuel Macron traveled to Beirut on Thursday, two days after the explosion, and was the first foreign head of state to see the destruction in the Lebanese capital. During the visit, he had also announced the international donor conference. US President Donald Trump then agreed to attend on Friday. "Everyone wants to help," wrote Trump on Twitter after a phone call with Macron. Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas will also take part, according to statements from government circles. For the EU, Council President Charles Michel and Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Janez Lenarcic will take part in the video conference. The day before, Michel is expected in person in Lebanon, where he wants to speak to President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Hassan Diab and Parliament President Nabih Berri.
On Tuesday, Beirut was hit by a huge explosion in an already burning building. According to the authorities, at least 154 people were killed and more than 5,000 injured. 60 people are still missing, rescue workers from Lebanon, Germany, France, Russia and other countries are looking for survivors in the rubble. According to the Ministry of Health, 25 dead have not yet been identified and 120 injured are still in mortal danger. According to various sources, between 250,000 and 300,000 people, at least a tenth of the city's population, are homeless because of the immense damage to buildings in the city.
Explosive power of up to a tenth of the Hiroshima bomb
The explosion occurred in the city's port. The exact cause has not yet been clarified. A large amount of the highly explosive chemical ammonium nitrate, which, according to government reports, had been stored in the port for years without adequate safety precautions, is probably responsible. More than 2,750 tons of the dangerous substance, which can be used as fertilizer, but also for the production of explosives, exploded. Ammonium nitrate is about half the power of TNT, an explosive whose strength is used as a measure of the power of other explosives.
The explosion could still be heard in Cyprus, 150 miles away, and seismic research stations around the world were able to measure the shock waves it emitted. They were roughly comparable to a level 3.5 earthquake. The Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources estimates the strength of the explosion at the equivalent of 500 to 1,100 tons of TNT, which is roughly one-twentieth to one-tenth of the explosive force of Little Boy , the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima by the USA in 1945. As a result of the explosion, the port of Beirut was almost completely destroyed, which amounts to an economic catastrophe for the country, which is dependent on imports. The damage runs into billions of dollars.
Immediately after the detonation, several bodies suspected a terrorist attack, but there is no evidence. The Lebanese government quickly identified the ammonium nitrate store as the cause, but President Aoun also considers an "external influence with a rocket or bomb" to be possible. He has rejected an international investigation, stating that it would only "dilute the truth". Although there was no official request from the Lebanese government, the United Nations offered its assistance in such an investigation.
Around 50 prominent representatives of Lebanese civil society and activist groups wrote to UN Secretary General António Guterres to ask the UN Security Council to set up an international commission. This should investigate the causes of the disaster. In their letter, they also called on the Security Council to set up a body and a trust fund to provide a detailed assessment of the damage caused by the explosion, help victims, and oversee reconstruction. UN vice spokesman Farhan Haq said the UN was ready to consider the request - "if the Lebanese authorities wished it."
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The aerial photo shows the extent of the destruction.
A high-rise building with a destroyed facade, debris everywhere: thousands of people were injured by the explosion like this passerby. Hundreds of thousands are probably homeless.
The detonation caused window panes to burst for miles.
A woman carries a child through a ruined street. The disaster strikes a country that is already in a deep crisis.
Lebanese soldiers search for survivors in the rubble.
He was saved from the rubble.
A hospital was also destroyed by the detonation.
The area around the port is almost completely destroyed. Numerous buildings collapsed.
Everything broken: A woman runs through the rubble of her apartment.
After the explosion, cleaning up begins. A man collects pieces of glass from the carpet of a mosque.
Two women with face masks in the rubble. Lebanon is also suffering from the corona pandemic, with more than 5,000 infections confirmed. Now the hospitals must also take care of the injured in the explosion - if they have remained intact.
Splintered facades, broken windows, debris everywhere: Lebanon was in a difficult economic and political situation anyway. The explosion has taken everything from many people.
At least 100 people died in the explosion. Several countries have pledged support to Lebanon.
The popular nightlife district of Mar Mikhaël was also partially destroyed.
People collect donations of clothing for those affected by the accident.
Others help with medical care for the injured.
Men carry bread in batches to a bakery the day after the explosion.
Volunteers set out to clean up their neighborhood.
They clear away debris so that the paths are clear again.
With brooms you can only sweep aside small pieces of debris. The reconstruction of the city will take a long time.
Explosion exacerbates Lebanon's national crisis
Meanwhile, Lebanese security forces have arrested 19 employees of the customs and port authorities, including the customs chief Badri Dahir, his predecessor Schafik Mirhi and port director Hassan Kuraitim. The authorities did not say whether there were any specific allegations against them or the other provisionally arrested employees.
The explosion is also a political catastrophe for Lebanon. Many Lebanese see it as evidence of the failure and corruption of the political leadership. The country has been in an economic crisis for years: the national currency has devalued massively against foreign currencies, a third of the population lives in poverty. In October 2019 there were mass protests and since then there have been repeated violent clashes with security forces. A change of government at the end of last year did not improve the situation, and the new government has also been the target of new mass protests in recent months.
Thousands of people are expected to attend a large demonstration in Beirut on Saturday evening. Before that, the victims of the disaster are to be buried, the motto of the protest rally is "Justice for the victims, revenge on the government." Since the explosion, there have been clashes between protesters and police for several nights. Even during Macron's visit to Beirut, people were shouting to him on the street that France should help with a regime change. Macron assured the demonstrators that French aid would not "fall into the hands of corruption".
Explosion in Beirut - How the Explosion Tore People Out of Everyday Life On Tuesday, a doctor had posed for photos and videos in downtown Beirut after her wedding. The recordings capture the force of the explosion. © Photo: Mahmoud Nakib / ReutersTV