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Dominic Raab pledges £5m UK aid and Navy on standby in wake of ‘devastating’ Lebanon blast

The blast is believed to have been caused by unsafely-stored ammonium nitrate. (PA)

3 min read

Britain is sending £5million in emergency humanitarian aid to Lebanon in the wake of a “devastating” explosion in capital Beirut, the Foreign Secretary has confirmed.

Dominic Raab said the UK cash would “help people made homeless by the disaster“ which killed at least 135 people and left thousands injured.

Authorities in Lebanon have said the blast was caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse — with the government there facing mounting anger over an incident which has also left many homeless.

As part of the international response to the explosion, Britain has offered search and rescue experts and trained dogs to help find those caught up in it.

The UK will also offer extra support to Lebanon’s armed forces, with the Government promising “tailored medical help, strategic air transport assistance, and engineering and communications support“.

Lebanon will also be offered the use of an advanced clinical advisory team, with NHS and other experts on hand to work with search and rescue teams there.

Speaking after a call with Lebanon’s prime minster, Hasson Diab, Mr Raab said a consular team in Beirut was monitoring whether any Britons had been caught up in the blast.

“It's a devastating explosion,” he told reporters. “There's clearly huge both loss of life but also wider damage in Beirut. We're not sure on the precise figures in relation to U.K. nationals there. We'll obviously want to bottom out that in the days ahead.”

And he added: “We are going to stand by the Lebanese people in their time of need.

"We're going to provide immediate response and an aid package and assistance package, search and rescue, humanitarian assistance, up to £5 million pounds, as well as expert medical support. 

“And what's crucial at this time is that our support is tailored to the very specific needs that I've just talked through with the Lebanese Prime Minister.”
The Foreign Secretary said a Royal Navy survey ship in the area was also “ready to go” and could also be deployed to help assess damage to the port.

And he said the Lebanese PM had promised a “full, thorough and rigorous investigation to get to the truth” of how the explosion had been allowed to happen.

International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “We have all been shocked by the scenes of devastation and suffering in Beirut. My heart goes out to all those who have been affected by this tragedy and who have lost loved ones.

“The UK stands ready to support the people of Lebanon in their time of need and has offered to send medics and rescue workers to treat those who have been injured.”

The Lebanese blast was felt as far away as Cyprus, and measured 4.5 on the Richter scale.

It comes in a country which was already reeling from the impact of the coronavirus crisis, and has absorbed more than 1.5 million refugees from the decade-long conflict in neighbouring Syria.

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