Czech Republic Sends Search Team to Help Find Survivors in Beirut

International aid in the form of emergency workers and medical personnel is heading to Lebanon a day after a massive explosion devastated Beirut’s port, killing at least 100 people and wounding thousands.

Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamacek says Lebanon has accepted an offer to send a team of 37 rescuers with sniffer dogs to Beirut.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab, in a short televised speech, has appealed to all countries and friends of Lebanon to extend help to the small nation.

“We are witnessing a real catastrophe.” He reiterated his pledge that those responsible for the massive explosion at Beirut’s port will pay the price, without commenting on the cause.

“There are many people missing. People are asking the emergency department about their loved ones and it is difficult to search at night because there is no electricity,” he added.

“I will not relax until we find the responsible party for what happened, hold it accountable and apply the most serious punishments against it because it isn’t acceptable that a shipment of ammonium nitrate — estimated to be 2,750 tons — was in a depot for the past six years without precautionary measures being taken,” said an official of the Lebanese Higher Defense Council.

What happened?

The explosion occurred just after 18:00 on Tuesday after a fire at the port.

The blast was caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely in a warehouse. Ammonium nitrate is used as a fertilizer in agriculture and as an explosive.

The blast was also felt 240km away on the island of Cyprus, in the eastern Mediterranean, with people there saying they thought it was an earthquake.

Lebanese Red Cross official George Kettaneh said at least 100 people were killed and more than 4000 were wounded, and the toll could rise further.

 

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