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Cargo planes head to Beirut with relief supplies

Explosion badly damaged city’s health and logistics infrastructure

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.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.



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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at