Aid agencies are flocking to help the people of Beirut after the massive explosion which killed at least 100 people and injured 4,000.
Buildings were flattened and people have lost their jobs, homes, food supplies and medicines.
Governments around the world have pledged help, alongside international charities associated with the many faith groups present in the country. Recent American surveys suggest the country is around 54% Muslim, 40% Christian, mainly Maronites, the Eastern Catholic church in communion with Rome.
There is a universal appeal for donations from many charities dealing with the disaster – and dire warnings. Save the Children country director Jad Sakr said: “This crisis hits everybody — Lebanese families, Palestinian and Syrian refugees alike. We will start seeing children dying from hunger before the end of the year”.
Islamic Relief is working on the ground providing immediate relief and has launched an international appeal for donations. It is a global organisation set up 35 years ago and works in 40 countries. In Lebanon, it serves the Lebanese people and refugees from Syria and Palestine offering welfare, education, clean water, winter clothing and health programmes.
It says the explosion has left 300,000 people homeless and in response to the crisis, it is providing hot meals, food parcels, clearing the streets and providing hospitals with medical supplies,
The Al Mustafa Welfare Trust based in the UK works with partners on the ground in Lebanon providing emergency relief.
It says “Lebanon has been suffering several crises for decades but the current explosion at the Beirut port is what may bring the country to a complete collapse. With hundreds of deaths and thousands injured, the country’s medical system – which has already been stretched due to the coronavirus pandemic – is struggling to cope. The current coronavirus pandemic as well as economic meltdown of the last months have forced the country into poverty as nearly half of the country’s population live below the poverty line and 35% are out of work, according to official statistics.”
Immediate reports of the explosion included a film (pictured) which went viral on twitter, of a priest celebrating mass at the Paroisse St. Maron Baouchrieh Catholic church, when the explosion rocked the building, plunged it into darkness and blew off all the windows and iron doors. The priest was forced to duck and dodge falling masonry, but early reports suggest he was not seriously hurt. Power has since been restored and the devastation is pictured on the church’s facebook page
Caritas Lebanon, founded by a Roman Catholic bishop, has appealed for volunteers to help in the crisis, saying their care centres are overwhelmed, hospitals are crowded and people lack everything including food. It is part of Caritas Internationalis, which works in 165 countries. There is an international appeal for help including donations and an emergency plan has been launched.
The Pope has prayed for the victims and their families, saying he hoped they would face this ‘extremely tragic and painful moment with the help of the international community.’