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Cyprus to send medical aid to Lebanon

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Cyprus will be flying in emergency medical aid to Beirut where a blast killed at least 100 people, injured 4,000 and made another 300,000 homeless.

Lebanon’s Ambassador Claude El Hajal said her country has kept an open line with Cyprus since the blast, noting that Nicosia has expressed its readiness to send in medical equipment and medicine.

Cyprus’ Foreign Affairs Minister Nicos Christodoulides has offered to help Lebanon in any way possible after a phone call he had with his Lebanese counterpart Charbel Wehbe.

“We need medical equipment and medicines and from what I understand there will be a flight tomorrow to Beirut carrying medical equipment and medicines,” El Hajal said.

She also said Lebanon needs trained dogs and rescue teams to find the injured in the wreckage, something he also conveyed to the Cypriot authorities.

“Cyprus is ready to help. At the moment, what we urgently need is medical supplies,” urged El Hajal.

Meanwhile, Cyprus is looking to schedule repatriation flights for Cypriots wanting to return to Cyprus after disaster struck Beirut.

Head of the Cypriot Community in Lebanon, Stalo Habibi, who is married to a Lebanese and has been living in the neighbouring country for 27 years, told CNA that there is no information about other Cypriot injured other than the three women who were reportedly slightly injured on Tuesday.

One of them was the Cyprus Consul Eleni Papanicolaou.

“We are talking about a catastrophe of biblical proportions. There are injured and dead, while a number of people are still missing. The country is in a state of emergency and mourning,” said Habibi.

It is estimated that around 2000 people with Cypriot citizenship live in Lebanon.

Habibi said that Cypriots in Lebanon are in dire straits as the explosion compounded the financial difficulties the country is facing in recent years, as well as the coronavirus crisis.

Tuesday’s blast at Beirut’s port warehouses storing highly explosive material was the most powerful in years in a country already reeling from an economic crisis and a surge in coronavirus infections.

Cause of the blast is reported to be some 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, used in fertilisers and bombs, which had been stored for six years at the port without safety measures.

The chemicals exploded after being ignited by a blaze started near the facility.

Cypriot link

Reportedly the 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate were confiscated from a vessel abandoned in Beirut’s port by its owner, a Russian with a Cypriot passport.

The Moldovan-flagged vessel MV Rhosus, called on Beirut Port reportedly somewhere in mid-October 2013.

The crew was Ukrainian with a Russian owner which authorities thought was suspicious.

After a proper inspection, it was found to be carrying ammonium nitrate, considered highly dangerous cargo.

The vessel was reportedly impounded with the crew remaining on the vessel until the proceedings were completed.

What happened to the ship and its cargo afterwards remains unclear.