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UN: Beirut explosion kills 178, 30 missing


Two workers look through a broken window at Saint George Hospital, which was badly damaged by the massive explosion on August 4, in Beirut, Lebanon, on August 13, 2020.

AP Photo

The death toll from last week’s massive explosion in the Lebanese capital rose to about 180 people, with an estimated 6,000 injured and at least 30 missing, the United Nations said on Friday.

The blast affected operations at six hospitals, up from the initial three, and damaged more than 20 clinics in the parts of Beirut hardest hit by the blast, the UN humanitarian affairs agency said in a report.

“A quick preliminary assessment within a 15-kilometer radius of the blasts has revealed that out of 55 medical facilities, only half are fully operational and about 40% have suffered moderate and severe damage and are in need of rehabilitation,” he added.

It is still unknown what caused the August 4 fire that ignited about 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate that were stored in the port of Beirut. But documents that have since emerged show that the country’s leadership and security authorities were aware that the chemicals were stored there.

The explosion has changed the profile of the capital and forced the resignation of the government. Lebanon’s parliament approved the declaration of a state of emergency for Beirut on Thursday in its first session since the tragedy, granting the army wide powers amid growing popular discontent and political uncertainty.

Some 120 schools, where 50,000 students studied, were damaged. More than 1,000 of the nearly 50,000 residential units were seriously damaged, the UN report added.

Among those killed were at least 13 refugees, of whom at least two were Palestinians, added the report, which also noted that more than 170,000 apartments were damaged.

Despite the damage to the port’s grain warehouses, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said no food shortages are expected.

The explosion rocked Beirut in the midst of a crippling financial and economic crisis, and the UN predicts that people will have difficulty restoring or fixing their homes. But at least 55% of the properties evaluated were for rent, which could make it easier for her tenants to move elsewhere, she added.

According to the international organization, the port of Beirut was operating at 30% of its capacity and that of Tripoli, in the north of the country, at 70%. This is allowing food and goods to keep flowing. The World Food Program is providing a three-month supply of wheat flour and grain.

The agency said it is concerned about a possible increase in coronavirus infections, especially as compliance with social distance is relaxed during voluntary aid to those affected by the explosion and protests against the government and the political elite.