Governments are deploying cargo planes loaded with humanitarian aid following Tuesday’s massive explosion at the Port of Beirut, which Lebanese officials say killed at least 137 and wounded more than 5,000.
A plane donated by the government of the United Arab Emirates arrived Wednesday with 20 tons of medical supplies from the World Health Organization’s logistics hub in Dubai to help treat up to 2,000 patients injured in the blast, according to the WHO.
The U.S. military is sending three C-17 military cargo planes with food, water and medical supplies to help city residents with basic needs, U.S. Central Command said in a statement. More than 300,000 people have been displaced from their homes.
The blast wiped out the port district and damaged local offices of shipping lines. Authorities have tentatively linked the explosion to 2,700 tons of chemical fertilizer stored at the port.
Beirut’s health care system is overwhelmed. The blast rendered three hospitals in Beirut unable to function, and two more are partially damaged, leaving a critical gap in hospital bed capacity. Injured patients are being transferred to hospitals across the country and many facilities are overwhelmed. The WHO said it will distribute the supplies to priority hospitals across Lebanon receiving and treating injured patients.
The international health agency said its central warehouse for storing essential medical supplies in Beirut was severely damaged, requiring supplies to be relocated to other locations. Also, a recently delivered shipment of personal protective equipment stored at the Beirut port warehouse pending transfer to the WHO’s warehouse was destroyed.
Officials said the displacement of so many people risks accelerating the spread of COVID-19 and the outbreak of other respiratory and waterborne diseases.