Macron goes to Beirut, world offers help to Lebanon

France on Wednesday sent planes to Beirut with rescuers, medical equipment and a mobile clinic, ahead of a visit on Thursday by President Emmanuel Macron, as world leaders offer support to the Lebanese capital devastated by a massive explosion. Macron will meet his counterpart Michel Aoun, whom he called late Tuesday, as well as PM Hassan Diab, the Elysee Palace announced. Lebanon is a former French protectorate and the countries retain close political and economic ties.

Lebanon's government declared a two-week state of emergency following the blast on Tuesday that killed at least 100 people and injured more than 4,000, according to the Lebanese Red Cross. Beirut's governor said 300,000 people have been left homeless and damage is estimated at up to $5bn.

Many other countries offered assistance too. Emergency medical aid from Kuwait arrived in the Lebanese capital on Wednesday morning as the Lebanese government called on "friendly countries" to support a nation already reeling from its worst economic crisis in decades as well as the coronavirus pandemic.

Gulf states were among the first to respond, with Qatar announcing it would send field hospitals to ease pressure on Lebanon's strained medical system. Crews at Doha's Al-Udeid airbase loaded hundreds of collapsible beds, generators and burn sheets onto an air force cargo plane, one of four due to fly from the Gulf to the Mediterranean on Wednesday.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said in a message to his Lebanese counterpart that Tehran was "ready to offer medical and medicinal aid and help treat the injured". Jordan's King Abdullah II also promised to dispatch a field hospital.

Unusually, neighbouring Israel offered humanitarian aid – to a country with which it is still technically at war."Defence Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, on behalf of the State of Israel, have offered the Lebanese government – via international intermediaries – medical and humanitarian aid, as well as immediate emergency assistance," a statement said.

The European Union said it would rush rescuers, search dogs and equipment to Beirut to look for any survivors trapped in rubble after the massive blast that struck the city. "The EU Civil Protection Mechanism is now coordinating the urgent deployment of over a 100 highly trained firefighters, with vehicles, dogs and equipment, specialised in search and rescue in urban contexts," the European commission for crisis management, Janez Lenarcic, said in a statement.

Dutch authorities announced that 67 aid workers were headed for Beirut, including doctors, police officers and firefighters.

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