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Cyprus offers medical help to Lebanon as blast leaves 80 dead, 4,000 injured

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The Cyprus government has offered medical assistance to Lebanon that is struggling to cope with the aftermath of the deadly blast in Beirut port on Tuesday afternoon, that has left 80 dead and 4,000 injured so far.

The explosions were seen from the coast of Cyprus, some 207kms away, and heard inland from the capital Nicosia.

As the neighbouring country had already been overwhelmed in its effort to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, the blast, that destroyed the commercial port and most of central Beirut, has inundated the health services, with makeshift care centres operating in nearby neighbourhoods.

The country’s leadership has called it a “national disaster”.

Cyprus state radio CyBC said the Cypriot authorities have offered to send a medical team to Lebanon, while preparing some of its facilities to accept victims from the blast.

“We are in communication with the Lebanese government and have informed of Cyprus’s immediate readiness to assist,” said Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides, soon after he spoke to his counterpart Charbel Wehbe, who was sworn into office only the day before.

Lebanon’s political leadership blamed 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate left in warehouse unchecked for six years for the devastating Beirut blast.

The explosion decimated the grain silos in the country’s main port and caused extensive damage to buildings throughout the capital. It was recorded by Independent correspondent Borzou Daragahi in Beirut.

The first blast was in a warehouse, that started a chain of minor explosion, leading some 30 seconds later to the second blast that rocked the country, with plumes of red smoke clearly visible from the Cyprus coastal town of Larnaca, where tourists and beachgoers were staring in awe.

The blast and shockwave woke ugly memories of the munitions explosion in Cyprus in July 2011, which killed 13 people, mostly firemen and seamen from the nearby naval station.

The explosion at Mari, that destroyed the nearby Vasiliko power station, caused a power outage that took months to repair and brought the island’s economy to a standstill.

It was caused when containers with arms shipment confiscated on their way to Syria on board a Russian cargo ship remained exposed to the scorching Cyprus sun, and was sparked by an ammunitions leak that caught fire.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab called for international support in the aftermath of the huge explosion in Beirut.

Among the first to respond were the presidents of France, Egypt and Cyprus, with the European Union also pledging support.

In a message on Twitter, Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said he was sending his “deepest condolences and sympathy to our brothers in Lebanon”. He added that he was praying “for the speedy recovery of the injured and for consolation to the families of the victims”.

European Council President Charles Michel said the EU “stands ready to provide assistance and support”, adding that his thoughts were with the people of Lebanon and families of the victims

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said the country was “ready to provide any assistance deemed necessary,” while sharing “deep condolences” with the people of Lebanon and those directly affected.

The Cyprus Foreign Ministry urged all Cypriots to register with the embassy in Beirut in order to coordinate any need for evacuation or repatriation.

The ministry said Cypriot citizens affected by the blast and in need can contact the crisis management centre in Nicosia on +35799660129, or the embassy in Beirut on +9613572139.

CyBC radio said only three Cypriots were reported as slightly injured, including a diplomat at the embassy in Beirut.