Volunteers are cleaning up Beirut and distributing aid to 300,000 homeless
[Aug. 11, 2020: Business Insider]
Now, feeling abandoned by their government, Beirut locals have been relying on each other to clean up the city.
Groups of volunteers, NGOs, and the Lebanese Red Cross have set up base camps near the scene of the tragedy at Beirut's port, offering food, collecting medical supplies, and dispatching teams to help those who lost everything.
"Ever since this explosion happened, we looked around us and we realized that we, the Lebanese civilians, us hand in hands, we are the government," said Nour El Achi, a volunteer and organizer with the local activist group Minteshreen. "Not a single public administration took to the streets in order to help these people. Not a single public establishment actually tries to clean the roads to clean up this tragedy, this catastrophe."
Faced with rising anger from the streets, Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced on Monday that he and all of his cabinet ministers would resign.
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While the immediate cause of the explosions was not immediately clear, reports stated they occured at warehouses where the government had stored more than 2,700 pounds of ammonium nitrate, an explosive material. The blasts killed more than 200 people and injured thousands more, with dozens still missing.
The disaster came as Lebanon reels from a crippling financial crisis that began in October 2019. Inflation caused by years of government corruption and debt mismanagement have caused the value of the Lebanese pound to plummet and food prices to skyrocket. Almost half of Lebanon's population lives below the poverty line, and 33% of the country is unemployed.
And locals are demanding more from their leaders. While the city government claims it is on the ground and helping with aid, civilians insist they have not seen members in action so far.
"I'm coming from the mountains just to help the people around here to rebuild, while the government is stopping here and watching us," volunteer Michelle Bejjani told Business Insider Today. "I'm trying to rebuild my country. I'm very sad, but I think we have a slight hope, us the youngsters."
As supplies, aid, and medical volunteers from around the world pour into Beirut, the Lebanese are seeking their direct help. Volunteers like El Achi are urging that funds and resources be sent not to the government of Lebanon, but trusted aid groups — "the ones who will truly serve the people," she said.
While Lebanese people wait for more clarity on the political future of their country, they are still sorting through the rubble. Business Insider Today spoke with one 82-year-old man, Antoine Abou Khalil, who found his brother bleeding under the wreckage of their home.
"They have completely destroyed this country," Khalil said. "I have no more doors, no more windows, nothing. But many people are coming to help, may God give them strength."....Read More