#OurHomesAreOpen: Aid Groups and Lebanese Come Together to Help Beirut Victims

Palestinians light candles to show solidarity with the Lebanese people following Tuesday’s blast in Beirut’s port area, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip August 5, 2020. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

ISTANBUL – Turkey’s Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) is among those searching for survivors in Beirut after a massive blast in the city killed 100 people and injured nearly 4,000, and Ankara has offered to build a field hospital and help as needed.

“We’ve relayed our offer to help” including immediate work on the hospital, and “we are expecting a response from the Lebanese side,” a senior Turkish official told Reuters. 

Tuesday’s blast at port warehouses storing highly explosive material was the most powerful in years in Beirut and prompted aid offers from countries including the United States, Israel, and Turkey. 

Members of the IHH group were digging through debris to look for people and recover bodies, and the group mobilized a kitchen at a Palestinian refugee camp to deliver food to those in need, said Mustafa Ozbek, an Istanbul-based official from the group.

“We are providing assistance with one ambulance to transfer patients. We may provide help according to the needs of the hospital,” he said.

The disaster – which rattled windows about 160km away – has united a city still scarred by civil war three decades ago and reeling from a financial crisis rooted in corruption and economic mismanagement and a surge in coronavirus infections.

Offers of international support have been pouring in. Gulf Arab states, who in the past were major financial supporters of Lebanon, have sent planes with medical equipment and other supplies. Iran offered food and a field hospital, ISNA news agency said.

The United States, Britain, France, and other Western nations, which have been demanding political and economic change in Lebanon, also offered help. Germany, the Netherlands, and Cyprus offered specialized search and rescue teams.

Two French planes were expected to arrive on Thursday with 55 rescuers, medical equipment, and a mobile clinic. French President Emmanuel Macron will also visit Lebanon on Thursday. Other Arab and European countries are sending doctors, mobile hospitals, and equipment.

On social media, hundreds of Lebanese have offered shelter to strangers displaced by a devastating blast, which Beirut’s governor said may have left 250,000 people homeless.

Using the hashtag #OurHomesAreOpen in Arabic and English, social media users have freely offered up spare beds and empty properties to victims, providing their names, phone numbers, and details on the size and location of the accommodation.

“I wanted to do something about it, I was going crazy,” said the founder of the platform ThawraMap. “Today a lot more people are going to be homeless. They go to their family or friends for a day or two and then what are they going to do?”

ThawraMap, or Revolution Map, has been sharing its shelter list on Twitter and Instagram, along with a map of more than 50 locations offered so far, ranging from people with extra beds in their homes to hotels providing up to 40 rooms. Other Twitter users shared contacts of doctors who were available to suture wounds in their clinics as hospitals were overwhelmed.

“For anyone in need of a house, I have an empty bedroom with an en suite bathroom, welcoming Beirut and its people,” wrote Twitter user Wajdi Saad.


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