Beirut blasts: Global leaders to participate in conference call on aid

Aug. 8 (UPI) — President Donald Trump said he plans to join a conference call with other leaders to discuss aid to Lebanon after the deadly explosions in Beirut.

The explosion in the port of the Lebanon’s capital Tuesday killed at least 157 people, injured 5,000, and left many homeless, exacerbating the country’s severe economic crisis, already worsened by COVID-19 pandemic.

France and the United Nations are leading the conference call for aid, which Trump will join Sunday.

“We will be having a conference call on Sunday with [French] President [Emmanuel] Macron, leaders of Lebanon, and leaders from various other parts of the world,” Trump tweeted Friday. “Everyone wants to help!”

Trump called the blasts a “horrible event” and said that doctors, nurses and three large aircraft were on the way with medical supplies, food, water and other emergency equipment.

Late Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added in a tweet that the United States has pledged more than $17 million in disaster aid to Lebanon.

“We remain ready to assist the people of Lebanon as they recover from the horrible August 4th explosion,” Pompeo also tweeted. “We keep everyone affected in this tragedy in our thoughts and prayers.”

The blasts left about 300,000 people homeless and repairs are estimated to cost billions of dollars, Beirut Gov. Marwan Abboud said.

On Thursday, the U.S. Air Force delivered 11 pallets of food, water and medical supplies.

Lebanese officials on Thursday, arrested 16 people linked to their investigation into the explosion.

On the same day, Human Rights Watch invited international experts to do an independent investigation, saying that there was evidence that some judges knew ammonium nitrate was stored at the port and did nothing about it. The non-governmental human rights organization also said that there have been previous incidents where the judiciary failed to uphold the rule of law or conduct proper inquiry.

Lebanese security forces on Thursday clashed with protesters who blamed the explosion on government negligence. And UNICEF, the U.N. agency that oversees humanitarian aid for youth, said some 80,000 children are in need of support after being displaced by the blast.

A day earlier the government said it planned to place port officials under house arrest in as part of investigation into why 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate were stored at nearby warehouses.

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