A huge explosion struck Lebanon’s capital yesterday, killing at least 100 people and injuring more than 4,000 others
At least 100 people have died and over 4,000 have been injured after a huge explosion rocked Beirut yesterday (August 4).
Videos on social media show smoke billowing out of a building – reportedly coming from a fire at the port – before an enormous explosion devastates the area. According to BBC News, the blast was also felt 150 miles away in Cyprus.
Other clips show the aftermath of the explosion, revealing the extent of the damage. Debris can be seen clouding the city, while cars and buildings are completely destroyed, and injured residents help one another to safety.
According to Lebanon’s president, Michel Aoun, the blast was caused by 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely in a warehouse in the country’s capital. The ammonium nitrate – a chemical used for fertiliser, and one of the main components in mining explosives – is believed to have been sitting in Beirut since it arrived “by accident” six years ago.
As reported by Al Jazeera, a ship carrying the ammonium nitrate was forced to dock in the city on its way to Mozambique in 2013, after technical problems at sea. Officials stopped the ship from sailing, and the ammonium nitrate was moved into a warehouse at Beirut’s port. Five letters are said to have been sent by customs officials between 2014 and 2017 urging authorities to remove the dangerous material – though no action was taken.
The blast has plunged Lebanon even further into turmoil. The country is already battling the coronavirus pandemic, an economic crisis, and political unrest due to austerity measures, corruption, and the fact that multiple towns have unsafe tap water and electricity blackouts.
As the search for missing people continues, and as the people of Beirut wake up in a devastated city, Dazed lists five ways you can help.
DONATE TO DISASTER RELIEF FUNDS
Non-profit organisation Impact Lebanon has started a JustGiving disaster relief fund to help those in need after the explosion. At the time of writing, the crowdfunder has raised over £2 million of its £5 million target – donate here. You can also donate to the Lebanese Red Cross – the main provider of ambulance services in the country – here. Activists have also built a list of local NGOs which you can donate to, including Ahla Fawda, which has been distributing essentials to families during the coronavirus crisis, and Lebanon for Students, which helps students fund their education. You can find the full list here, and an additional selection of organisations here.
SHARE INFO ABOUT HOW TO HELP
Whether you’re in Beirut or not, sharing information can be a vital tool for others to educate themselves about the situation, access much-needed support, or find out how to donate. Twitter user @innterstaellar has created a thread of people offering places to stay for those who have been rendered homeless by the explosion – find it here. You can also share this map of shelters in Beirut for those in need of urgent accommodation.
Instagram account @LocateVictimsBeirut is sharing names and photos of people who are missing after the blast. The posts include phone numbers for their friends and family, which users can contact if they have any information.
a thread of people offering places to stay in for those who have been rendered homeless because of the tragic blast in lebanon and are in dire need of a place to stay at :— ∞ (@innterstaellar) August 4, 2020
As well as reading about Tuesday’s disaster, it’s important to educate yourself about the backdrop that the explosion happened against. As well as enduring the global coronavirus crisis, Lebanon is fighting political unrest and an unprecedented economic crisis. The country has had over 5,000 COVID-19 cases and 65 deaths, but has seen a spike in recent weeks. Yesterday’s blast will increase pressure on hospitals, which are already overwhelmed due to the pandemic – intensive care units at Lebanon’s largest public hospital, for example, are full.
Lebanon is also still in crisis following an outbreak of protests in October 2019, sparked by the country’s economic crisis, as well as government corruption, austerity measures, and a lack of stable electricity and clean water. Demonstrations broke out after prime minister Saad Hariri announced new tax increases – after 13 days of protests, Hariri resigned. According to The Guardian, little has changed since he left office, with blackouts and the economic crisis worsening, and food prices rising by up to 80 per cent.
In a longread for The Guardian last month, journalist Martin Chulov shed light on Lebanon’s economic crisis. “Since March,” he wrote, “prices of most goods have nearly tripled, while the value of the national currency has fallen by 80 per cent, and much of the country has ground to a halt. Those who still have work are surviving month to month. Malls are empty. Poverty is soaring, crime is rising, and streets are incendiary.” The inflation rate in Lebanon is currently the third highest in the world, and the country is on the brink of starvation.
SIGN AND SHARE PETITIONS
There’s an extensive list of petitions you can sign to show your support for Beirut. One Change.org petition is calling on the United Nations to offer adequate relief to those in need after the explosion – sign it here. Other petitions are asking for financial aid after Israeli bombings in Lebanon last year, calling on authorities to end the exploitative kafala system – which puts migrant workers’ legal status in the hands of their employer – and demanding the freezing of assets of corrupt politicians. You can find more petitions here and here.
IF YOU’RE IN LEBANON: VOLUNTEER TO HELP, OR GIVE BLOOD
For those in Lebanon, there’s lots of direct action you can take. You can volunteer at organisations on the front line, including the Lebanese Red Cross – find out how to help here. Activists have also compiled a further list of places to volunteer here. Another way to urgently help is give blood to those who need it. You can find out more on the Lebanese Red Cross website here, or find a list of locations that need blood donations here.