French president traveling to Lebanon after deadly explosion
Published 10:32 am Wednesday, August 5, 2020
By ELAINE GANLEY
PARIS (AP) — As Lebanon reeled in shock a day after the massive blast in Beirut and counted the dead, nations around the world promised it would not be alone.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced he would fly to the shattered Lebanese capital, and two planeloads of French rescue workers and aid were expected to touch down on Wednesday afternoon.
Other countries were sending search teams, stunned by the explosion that killed at least 100 people, injured thousands and left smoking rubble strewn for blocks around Beirut’s port.
But the pledges of aid raised new questions for a country whose economic and political crisis has made donors wary in recent years.
It was unclear what caused the blast, which appeared to have been triggered by a fire and struck with the force of an earthquake. It was the most powerful explosion ever seen in the city.
Macron’s office told The Associated Press that the French leader will meet with Lebanese political leaders but provided no further details. Lebanon is a former French protectorate and the countries retain close political and economic ties.
Several other countries across the Middle East and Europe are sending aid. The European Union is activating its civil protection system to round up emergency workers and equipment from across the 27-nation bloc.
The EU commission said the plan is to urgently dispatch over 100 firefighters with vehicles, sniffer dogs and equipment designed to find people trapped in urban areas.
The Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Poland and the Netherlands are taking part in the effort and other countries are expected to join.
The EU’s satellite mapping system will be used to help Lebanese authorities to establish the extent of the damage.
The French emergency workers traveling to Lebanon include members of a special unit with chemical and other technological expertise trained to intervene in damaged industrial sites. Among their tasks will be to identify specific risks for products stored in the area and other risks resulting from the explosion, said national civil security spokesman Michael Bernier.
Others have experience in dealing with the aftermath of earthquakes, forest fires and other international disasters.
In Paris, a special vigil will be held Wednesday for blast victims in the Notre Dame Maronite Church, and the Eiffel Tower will go dark at midnight to mourn them.