BEIRUT: Cyprus sends humanitarian aid, evacuate Cypriots

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Cyprus will send humanitarian aid to Lebanon on a flight to Beirut on Thursday night which will also carry back Cypriots wishing to be repatriated after the massive blast that ripped through Lebanon’s capital.

The first batch of humanitarian aid to be flown from Cyprus will depart the island at 7 pm on Thursday.

The plane will be carrying medical equipment, medicines, and long-lasting food.

In comments to the Cyprus News Agency, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kornilios Korniliou, said Nicosia wanted to respond to the situation created by the deadly explosions in Beirut on two levels.

“The first level concerns the repatriation of Cypriots wishing to return to Cyprus and providing assistance to Cypriots living in Lebanon who are either facing housing problems, injured or in need of any other assistance.”

Korniliou said there are some 60 Cypriots wishing to return to Cyprus, while the number is expected to grow by the time the plane arrives in nearby Lebanon.

The Ministry seeks to respond to the humanitarian crisis created on the ground in Lebanon.

Private institutions, businesses, and the public have helped in one way or another to put together a cargo of humanitarian aid bound for Beirut.

Korniliou said Cyprus is planning to send a team of volunteer doctors to offer help to the thousands that were injured in Tuesday’s blast.

On Wednesday, Cyprus sent in two rescue teams with eight specially trained dogs to help emergency services on the ground in Beirut to find survivors trapped under collapsed buildings.

Beirut death toll rises to 135

Lebanon’s government has declared a two-week state of emergency in Beirut, and handed control of security to the military, as the number of dead has now reached at least 135, while some 5,000 others reported being injured in the blast that devastated the city.

Officials have said that they expect the death toll to rise further as emergency workers dig through the rubble to search for survivors.

The explosion had sent shockwaves across the city, causing widespread damage as far as the outskirts of Beirut, it could also be felt in Cyprus 200km away.

Beirut’s city governor Marwan Abboud said up to 300,000 people have lost their homes and authorities are working on providing them with food, water and shelter.

The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear, but officials have since linked the blast to some 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate confiscated back in late 2013, that were being stored in a warehouse at Beirut’s port for six years.

Nicosia has denied any Cyprus-link to the shipment of dangerous chemicals confiscated seven years ago.