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Huge explosion in the port of Beirut. Europeans mobilize (v11)

(B2) Attention is focused on Lebanon this Tuesday (August 4) after the explosion which took place around 17:10 p.m. (local time) in the port of Beirut

A mega-disaster

A toll that gets worse by the hour

More than a hundred dead (157 at the latest report) and more than 5000 injured were recorded by the Lebanese Red Cross. A still very provisional assessment, according to the dailyEast The day, which could get even worse in the coming hours. 120 injured are in critical condition. And there are still 60 missing.

Several neighborhoods affected

The gigantic explosion affected not only the port area but the neighboring districts, notably Mir Mikael and more generally the Achrafieh district. It was heard for miles around. The origin seems accidental according to European diplomats, due “ with[cascade] explosion of chemical stocks containing nitric acid » (ammonium nitrate).

Overwhelmed hospitals

Lebanese hospitals already struggling with the Covid-19 epidemic are overwhelmed. The Lebanese Red Cross has opened sorting and first aid centers in several places in the capital (Martyrs Square near the Al Amin Mosque and at the Beirut Forum in particular).

A UNIFIL vessel hit

One of the ships of the maritime force of the blue helmets was hit by the explosion and several of its occupants injured announcement the United Nations forces in Lebanon, UNIFIL. This is a corvette of the Bangladesh Navy, the SNB Bijoy. 19 sailors were injured, some quite seriously according to UNIFIL. Two men in particular are in critical condition, according to the site Defseca.

European embassies damaged

Several embassies of European countries were also affected. The Belgian embassy suffered " enormous damage according to Defense Minister Philippe Goffin. Two officers and two family members were slightly injured by shards of glass. The Dutch embassy was also hit, with five injured, including one in very serious condition. The ambassador's wife, Hedwig Waltmans-Molier, also a diplomat, died of her injuries on Saturday (August 8).

The German and Austrian representations were also affected. There are wounded German personnel. On the Austrian side it is specified that it is “not currently not certain whether the embassy offices can be used in the coming days ».

European aid that is mobilizing

Copernicus implemented

The emergency response coordination center (aka ERCC, Emergency Response Coordination Centre) quickly implemented the satellite tracking system Copernicus. Objective: draw up a quick map of the situation and help local authorities, indicated Janez Lenarčič, the European commissioner in charge of crisis management. The European Civil Protection Mechanism has been activated.

The European Civil Protection Mechanism triggered

Three countries immediately responded to the Lebanese request — Greece, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic — by sending search and rescue teams. In all, more than a hundred people, specialized in urban search and rescue, with vehicles, dogs and equipment. These three countries (with France) very quickly indicated their intention to help Lebanon in a concrete way (1), just like thea Poland, Germany, Italy, Cyprus, followed by Austria, Finland, Belgium and Romania. The United Kingdom also responded to the call. 

Financial assistance

The European Commission announced that it was mobilizing 33 million euros, to which were added 30 million euros promised during the international conference on aid and support to Beirut and the Lebanese population. A sum which includes resources available under the EU Regional Trust Fund in response to the Syrian crisis and released in June. An 8 million euro contract was signed on Thursday (August 6) to support the emergency medical services of the Lebanese Red Cross. in its efforts to improve access to emergency pre-hospital care and blood transfusion services » indicates the European executive in a communicated.

Strong political support

The President of the European Council Charles Michel announced, via a tweet, traveling to Lebanon on Saturday (August 8), “ to convey Europe's solidarity with the inhabitants of Lebanon ". Meetings are planned with President Michel Aoun (Free Patriotic Movement/Maronites), Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri (Amal/Shiites) and President of the Council of Ministers Hassane Diab. " Shocked and saddened, we stand with all those affected and will help them.. “On the spot, he also mentioned” longer-term challenges ": " It is essential that Lebanon implements fundamental structural reforms. The Lebanese can count on the European Union in this effort, but the determining element lies in national unity » emphasizes the communicated.

An airlift being organized

In all, eleven European Union countries + the United Kingdom responded to Lebanon's appeal with direct aid, mobilizing more than 330 rescuers and specialists (medical, risks, etc.).

France: eight military planes + 1 civil plane + 1 hospital ship + 1 freighter + 124 rescuers, investigators and medical staff

On the French side, we didn't wait. Two military aircraft (an A400M Atlas and an A330 MRTT Phénix), carrying 55 people from the UIISC1, thecivil security instruction and intervention unit n°1 of Nogent le Rotrou (50 rescue-clearance specialists and five technological risk experts) took off from Roissy this Wednesday morning (August 5). On board several tons of sanitary equipment. What to ride un advanced medical post to care for up to 500 injured people.

Military firefighters from UIISC1 on departure (credit: Civil Security)

This follows the intention stated by the President of the Republic. “ French aid and resources are being sent to the site » indicates by tweet Emmanuel Macron from 21 p.m. on Tuesday evening. Another plane (a Bombardier Global 6000 chartered by CMA CGM) with nine Marseille firefighters on board (doctors and nurses) from the maritime intervention medical unit (UMIM) landed in Beirut in the afternoon.

A third military plane, an A400M Atlas carrying a detachment of 60 personnel from the Ministry of the Interior, reinforcements from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Red Cross - investigators to advance in the investigations, research bodies as causes » of the accident according to Emmanuel Macron -, took off from Vélizy-Villacoublay (Paris region), Thursday (August 6), with 15 tons of material and equipment. The French president visited Lebanon on Thursday morning (listen to his press conference).

It was followed (Friday August 7) ​​by a C130J plane which took off from Orléans air base with cargo (11 tonnes of medicines, as well as a pallet of 10.000 doses of vaccines). This should allow “ the care of more than 1000 wounded ", Specifies the Quai d'Orsay. A fifth flight, provided by an A310, transported personnel and freight, mainly to take over from UNIFIL. Three other military flights (two A400Ms and a C160 Transall) are scheduled for Saturday August 8 and Sunday August 9, in order to transport in particular 13 tonnes of food products and three tonnes of medicines.

Support is also active on the navy side, the BPC amphibious helicopter carrier PHA Thunder departs Sunday (August 9) from Toulon to normally arrive the following Thursday (August 13) in Beirut. It will make it possible to deploy a field hospital. It will be followed by a freighter chartered by the Ministry of Defence. In total, the armies will have transported 96 tonnes of freight, 130 people and 3 dogs (result as of Sunday August 10 evening).

Greece: 12 rescuers and 1 dog

Also on Wednesday (August 5) morning, a first team of the Greek special unit for the fight against disasters (EMAK), with 2 vehicles, 12 rescuers and a dog, left by an Air Force C-130 plane, indicated Greek civil protection. Athens is ready to send additional aid and medical equipment to Lebanon, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

The EMAK team on departure (Credit: Greek civil protection)

Czech Republic: 36 rescuers and 5 dogs

A Czech rescue team, made up of 36 rescue firefighters and 5 rescue dogs, specializing in searching for disaster victims in the rubble, left on Wednesday (5 August) at 16 p.m., the Minister of Interior, Jan Hamaček.

Netherlands: a plane and 60 rescuers

On Wednesday evening (August 5), it was the turn of the Dutch Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team to fly from Eindhoven Airport on a civilian plane to Beirut. On board more than 60 people (firefighters, police officers, doctors and soldiers), specialized in the search for missing people. Some 16 tons of heavy equipment with rescue and dogs follow by a C-17 heavy transport aircraft.

Germany: a ship and a medical reconnaissance unit

Berlin has decided to reassign the corvette Ludwigshafen on the Rhine which depended on UNIFIL towards disaster assistance. The ship left Limasol in Cyprus on Thursday morning (August 6) at 7 a.m. local time and is expected to arrive after a six-hour journey. With its on-board doctor, the crew of around 70 personnel is ready to help.

The Bundeswehr's mobile intensive care unit in Cologne/Wahn for strategic air patient transport (StratAirMedEvac) has been placed on heightened alert. A Bundeswehr medical reconnaissance team has already departed from Germany with a Global 5000 aircraft. Depending on the result, the mobile hospital could be deployed and operational within 96 hours, indicated the Bundeswehr.

Poland: 45 rescuers + 11 specialists (doctors, experts)

A group of rescuers took off from Warsaw to Beirut on Wednesday (August 5), aboard a regular LOT airliner around 23 p.m. in the evening. On board, a fire department search and rescue (USAR) group, consisting of 43 rescuers and four dogs, reinforced by six doctors and five experts in biological, radiological and chemical and explosive risks from the Polish Center for international aid (PCPM Polskiego Centrum Pomocy Międzynarodowej). Group group led by Brigadier Mariusz Feltynowski, who has already led rescue operations during missions after earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal. They arrived at night (3 a.m.) in Beirut, according to the Polish firefighters.

The Polish USAR rescue team before departure (credit: Państwowej Straży Pożarnej)

Italy: 14 technological risk specialists + a hospital ship

A team of 14 firefighters specializing in NBCR (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical and Radiological) risks arrived in Beirut on Thursday (August 6). They are led by the head of unit Stefania Fiore. Objective, according to italian civil security : " provide technical support on chemical risks and assess the condition of damaged structures » by the explosion.

A plane also took off from the United Nations humanitarian emergency response base in Brindisi, organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in collaboration with the Department of Civil Protection, with 8,5 tonnes of medical equipment made available by Italian cooperation, indicates Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio on Facebook. Finally, a hospital ship should reach Lebanon as well.

Finland: a rescue coordination team

Finland is sending a Finnish Rescue, Technical Assistance and Support (TAST) team, trained in international rescue operations. One of the tasks of this team will be to support an international aid coordination team. Material aid is also planned, containing medical supplies and hygiene equipment.

Cyprus: 10 rescuers, two helicopters, two aid planes

The Mediterranean island closest to Lebanon sent a team of ten rescuers and eight search dogs aboard two police helicopters from Larnaca airport on Thursday (August 5). Teams integrated into the Greek EMAK team. Medical, food and logistical aid supplies were also transported aboard a Cyprus Airlines Airbus A319, the first flight on Thursday (August 6), the second on Friday (August 7).

Cyprus Police Lifeguard Team (credit: Cyprus Airports)

Austria: a relief coordinator

An officer experienced in international disaster relief operations, Captain Gernot Hirschmugl, left on Thursday (August 6) to reinforce the UN coordination team (made up of 12 people), says the Austrian Ministry of Defense. THE'Austrian Force Disaster Relief Unit (AFDRU), a specialized army unit, was put on alert.

Belgium: a C130 with help, but no BFast team

A C130 transport plane from the Belgian defense left this Friday (August 7) ​​around 20 p.m. from the Brussels-Melsbroek air base. On board, urgent and humanitarian medical equipment for the population, but no rescue team as announced (cf. RTBF). Belgium had indeed offered to send a multidisciplinary BFast team, made up of “ members of civil protection specialized in the detection of dangerous substances (CBRN detection means), and members of the military component of Defense with a view to carrying out an additional assessment of medical needs, of the burns center as well as only a few experts responsible for supervising the mission ". But the Lebanese authorities estimate that the country has for the moment no longer " urgent need for additional rescuers on site, but rather humanitarian goods explains Philippe Goffin, the Minister of Defense and Foreign Affairs, in a communicated.

Romania: a material plane

About eight tons of medical equipment took off on Saturday (August 8) from the 90th Transport Air Base aboard two air force planes (a C-130 Hercules and a C-27J Spartan).

Romanian aid unloaded in Beirut (credit: Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

United Kingdom: one ship

London sends the ship HMS Enterprise currently moored not far from Lebanon, in Limassol (Cyprus). Goal : " assist with the work of inspecting the port of Beirut, assessing the damage and helping to rebuild this vital structure " according to terms from Defense Minister Ben Wallace. A small team of soldiers was also deployed to the embassy. to help identify beesoins and coordinate all support measures for the Lebanese armed forces (adequate medical support, military airlift assistance, and engineering and communications capabilities).

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

On-site emergency coordination

The distribution of relief supplies on site is subject to coordination under the auspices of the UN. Different sectors were assigned to the already operational research teams: A for the Dutch, B for the Qataris, C for the Greeks, F for the French (next to the Russians who take care of sector G), I for the Czechs.

(credit: USAR.NL)

  1. See communicated from the Greek Foreign Ministry, tweets from the Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamáček and Dutch Minister development cooperation Sigrid Kraag.

Updated Wednesday 13 p.m. and 20 p.m., Thursday 19 p.m., Friday 12-13 p.m. and 16 p.m., Saturday 13 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m., with elements of the European civil protection mechanism (v2), details of French (v2), Dutch and Czech aid ( v3), Greek and German (v4), additional French aid (v5), Polish, Finnish and Italian aid (v6), Cypriot and British, the announcement by Charles Michel of his trip to Beirut (v7), l potential Belgian aid and the box on the relief map (v8), details on Belgian and Romanian aid (v9), additional French aid (v10), European aid and Michel travel (v11).

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).