The flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates committed on Thursday to establishing an “air bridge” that will move critical aid to Lebanon. The airline said that more than 50 flights would be dedicated to bringing “urgent food, medical supplies and other much needed items” into the country.
“The world is banding together to stand in solidarity with Lebanon, providing urgent relief and immediate recovery support to those affected by this tragic disaster,” CEO Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said in a statement.
The relief effort was announced one day after German industrial giant Siemens said it would provide two mobile gas turbines capable of providing power to 150,000 people, or about 10% of Beirut’s population. The turbines could be up and running within 12 weeks, according to Siemens, which said they will be provided free of charge for a year. The company is also sending ultrasound systems and a mobile X-ray unit for use in hospitals.
Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser announced the relief measures alongside German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas during a trip to Beirut.
“We want to provide rapid, focused support to help relieve people’s suffering quickly and with no red tape,” said Kaeser. “Medical systems and electric power are vital here, and Siemens can supply both. As a global company, we feel a clear obligation to support the country and its people in this difficult situation.”
The blast, which leveled huge swaths of Beirut and displaced hundreds of thousands of people, couldn’t have come at a worse time for Lebanon.
In the past year, a breakdown in the country’s banking system and skyrocketing inflation triggered mass protests. Even before the coronavirus pandemic hit, the World Bank projected that 45% of people in Lebanon would fall below the poverty line in 2020.
European and Gulf countries have sent aid to help Lebanon manage the fallout from the blast, and the country’s central bank last week instructed lenders to make interest free dollar loans that could be repaid over the next five years so people and businesses can rebuild. But it’s expected to fall far short of what the country needs to pull back from the brink, and some donors may be deterred by widespread corruption and mismanagement.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who was mobbed by angry crowds during a tour of devastated Beirut neighborhoods last week, hosted an international donors’ conference on Sunday.
Speaking by video conference, Macron told world leaders, including US President Donald Trump, that “the objective is to pool our resources to meet the needs of the population of Beirut.”
On Monday, Lebanon’s government stepped down. Prime Minister Hassan Diab addressed the nation, announcing his resignation and that of his government in the wake of the blast, which he called a “disaster beyond measure.”
— Mohammed Tawfeeq, Julia Horowitz, Nina dos Santos and Eoin McSweeney contribute reporting.