UK pledges more aid after Beirut explosion

The International Development Secretary has pledged to “stand by the Lebanese people” and promised another £20 million in aid following the devastating explosion in Beirut.

The blast in the city’s port on Tuesday is now known to have killed more than 150 people and destroyed large parts of the city.

The new package of support is in addition to £5 million already given by the UK Government.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “Today the world is coming together to stand by the Lebanese people, and as one of the biggest donors to this crisis so far, the UK is pledging more urgent support to help all those affected by this terrible disaster.”

Lebanon explosion
Lebanon explosion

The extra funds come after one British aid worker said the impact of the explosion can be seen six miles from the epicentre of the blast.

British charity Saraid (Search and Rescue Assistance in Disasters) has been working in the city for several days, trying to find survivors and evaluate the structural safety of buildings hit by the blast.

One of Saraid’s volunteers, Rob Davis, 49, described the epicentre of the explosion as “completely devastated, a huge amount of damage”, but the effects can also be seen further out of the city.

UPDATE: Due to SARAID's task developing into Building Damage Assessments we have bolstered the team with 2 more engineering specialists and 3 experienced USAR technicians with expertise in managing disaster

— SARAID (@team_saraid) August 8, 2020

He told the PA news agency: “The area of affected property is massive.

“If I can give you some indication of the scale of the effect of the blast, my base of operations is 10km (6.2 miles) from the port, the windows in my base have been affected by the blast.

A firefighter by trade, volunteer Mr Davis added: “I’m 10km from the port – from the epicentre of this explosion – and my hotel, it’s not structurally damaged, but the fabrication of it is damaged.”

Mr Davis said there are “various levels of damage” across communities in Beirut, but Saraid workers are liaising with local agencies to check buildings and rank them as safe or unsafe, to “try and get some sense of normality back to the communities of Beirut”.

He added: “The whole community has been shocked by this devastating event.”

Saraid is a British charity that provides search and rescue personnel in response to disasters across the globe.

The voluntary organisation has helped in crises such as Hurricane Irma which hit the Caribbean in 2017, as well as earthquakes in Albania and Ecuador in 2019 and 2016 respectively.

Initially Sariad sent six people to Beirut, however over the weekend a second team flew out to join them and assist in the recovery and engineering work.

On Saturday, Boris Johnson told Lebanon’s president Michel Aoun the UK will “stand by the country in its hour of need”.

According to a No 10 spokesman, the Prime Minister also conveyed condolences from the Queen.

Meanwhile, protesters stormed government buildings in Beirut on Saturday night to vent their anger at the authorities.

Demonstrators clashed with security forces, who responded with heavy volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets.

One police officer was killed and dozens of people hurt in the confrontations.

Lebanon’s information minister Manal Abdel-Samad has since resigned.