The Latest: Australia pledges $1.4M for Beirut relief effort

International

Destruction is seen after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. The explosion on Tuesday flattened much of a port and damaged buildings across Beirut, sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. In addition to those who died, more than 3,000 other people were injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the explosion in Beirut (all times local):

6 a.m. Thursday

The Australian government has pledged an initial 2 million Australian dollars ($1.4 million) to the relief effort in Lebanon following the deadly blast that ripped across the capital Beirut.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters Thursday that the aid will be provided to the World Food Program and to the Red Cross for food, medical care and essential items.

He says his country is considering another round of support.

Morrison says some Australian Embassy personnel were injured but “they are safe and accounted for and we wish them a speedy recovery.”

He also thanked the U.S. Embassy officials in Beirut for their support.

Tuesday’s blast killed 135 people and injured about 5,000 others. Investigators focused on possible negligence in the storage of tons of a highly explosive fertilizer in a waterfront warehouse, while the government ordered the house arrest of several port officials.

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11:30 p.m

Germany has dispatched dozens of search and rescue specialists to Lebanon to help in the race to find survivors trapped beneath rubble following Tuesday’s explosion in Beirut.

About 50 staff of Germany’s THW civil protection organization flew out of Frankfurt late Wednesday with search dogs and 15 tons of equipment to locate people below collapsed buildings.

Timo Eilhardt, THW’s chief of operations, said there is normally a good chance of finding survivors more than 72 hours after a disaster, “which means we can expect to find people for another two to three days.”

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9:25 p.m.

Russia’s Ministry for Emergencies says that its first plane carrying relief teams, doctors and medical equipment has landed in Beirut.

The ministry said Wednesday the aircraft has delivered a mobile hospital along with 50 emergency workers and medical personnel. Another three Russian flights are scheduled to arrive within the next 24 hours. They will carry equipment for a coronavirus testing lab and protective gear, among other relief supplies.

The airlift follows a request for help from the Lebanese authorities faced with the aftermath of the massive explosion that devastated Beirut.

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9:20 p.m.

The United Nations says it is stepping up emergency assistance to Lebanon following the explosion that devastated Beirut and is urging the international community to “stand beside” the Lebanese people who have generously hosted thousands of Palestinian and Syrian refugees for years.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Wednesday that among the thousands injured from the blast at Beirut’s port are over 100 U.N. staff members and dependents, and among the more than 100 dead are two family members of U.N. staffers.

He said 22 members of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon were among the injured. One of the U.N. Maritime Task Force ships docked in the port was damaged, leaving naval peacekeepers injured, “some of them seriously,” he said.

“We expect that the damage at the port will significantly exacerbate the economic and food security situation in Lebanon, which imports about 80-85 percent of its food,” Haq said.

The U.N. humanitarian office “also expects that it will affect the U.N.’s ability to provide aid to Syria because the port in Beirut is one of the ways we are shipping aid,” he said.

U.N. peacekeepers and staff in Lebanon are assisting in the emergency response and specialists are en route to support urban search and rescue operations and “to conduct rapid assessments about the situation on the ground and help coordinate emergency response activities,” Haq said.

A top U.N. priority is to support the existing hospitals and trauma response capacity, and the U.N. World Health Organization is working closely with the Lebanese Ministry of Health “to conduct an assessment of hospital facilities in Beirut, their functionality and needs for additional support, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

Assessments of humanitarian needs and shelter needs following the explosion are also underway, Haq said.

“The United Nations is looking at all options to find ways to provide financial assistance to support ongoing response efforts,” he said.

Haq said it was too early to say if the U.N. will issue an international appeal to help rebuild Beirut.

“It would seem given the amount of damage that there will be a need for additional international support for Lebanon,” he said, adding that the U.N. is heartened to see support from many governments and hopes all countries will stand beside the Lebanese people at this time.

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9 p.m.

The U.S. Embassy in Beirut says at least one American citizen was killed and several more were injured in Tuesday’s massive explosion in Beirut’s port.

“We offer our sincerest condolences to their loved ones and are working to provide the affected U.S. citizens and their families all possible consular assistance. We are working closely with local authorities to determine if any additional U.S. citizens were affected,” the embassy said in a statement Wednesday.

The embassy says all of its employees are safe and accounted for.

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8:55 p.m.

The World Food Program says it is quickly assessing the situation in Lebanon to be ready to provide emergency support for those who were left “homeless overnight, lost loved ones, were injured or anyone who needs assistance in these difficult times.”

The U.N. humanitarian organization said in a statement Wednesday from its Rome headquarters that the explosion and port damage “will exacerbate the grim economic and food security situation” in Lebanon, noting that the country’s economic crisis was already being compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It also expressed concern that the damage to Beirut’s port “would push food prices beyond the reach of many.”

The organization cited a recent World Food Program survey that found that 50% of Lebanese saying over the past month they “felt worried they would not have enough food to eat.”

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8:40 p.m.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro extended his condolences to Lebanon at an event on Wednesday and highlighted that the South American nation is home to millions of Lebanese people. He added his administration intended to provide aid, without specifying how.

“Brazil will do more than a gesture. Something concrete to attend, in part, to those tens of thousands of people who are in a rather complicated situation because, in addition to injuries, many homes were hit,” Bolsonaro said.

On Tuesday, he said on Twitter that because Brazil is home to the world’s largest Lebanese population, the tragedy feels as though it happened on Brazilian soil.

Brazil already has a ship on a peace mission in Lebanon. The defense ministry previously said it would remove the vessel by the end of this year, citing budgetary restrictions.

The Lebanese consulate in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, said in a statement it is in the process of asking local authorities to provide assistance. All fundraising must be “swift and transparent,” it said.

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8:25 p.m.

The Tel Aviv municipality has lit up City Hall with the Lebanese flag in solidarity with the people of Beirut after Tuesday’s devastating explosion, drawing an outcry from some in Israel.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai wrote on Twitter earlier on Wednesday that “humanity takes precedence over every conflict, and our hearts are with the Lebanese people following the horrible disaster that befell it.”

Israel and Lebanon are officially in a state of war and do not have diplomatic relations. Israel fought a monthlong war in 2006 against the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, and the sides remain bitter enemies. Current and former lawmakers criticized the decision to project the Lebanese flag.

Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, also lashed out against the decision on Twitter, calling it “simply insane. Lebanon is officially an enemy state. By law, it is a criminal offense to fly an enemy flag.”

No such law exists in the Israeli legal code.

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8 p.m.

Britain is promising a 5-million-pound ($6.6 million) humanitarian support package for Lebanon following Tuesday’s devastating explosion in Beirut.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Wednesday that search and rescue teams and expert medical support are ready to be sent. He added that a Royal Navy ship already in the area can also be deployed to help assess the damage to Beirut’s port.

Raab said he spoke Wednesday to Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab, who he said promised a “full, thorough and rigorous” investigation into the blast, and accountability for those responsible.

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7:30 p.m.

A U.N.-backed tribunal has postponed the delivery of judgments in the trial of four members of the militant group Hezbollah charged with involvement in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

The move was a mark of respect to victims of the devastating explosion that rocked Beirut late Tuesday.

The verdicts were to have been read out in the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s courtroom in the Netherlands on Friday, but will now be delivered on Aug. 18.

In a statement, the tribunal says the decision to delay Friday’s court hearing was made “out of respect for the countless victims of the devastating explosion that shook Beirut on Aug. 4” and the three days of public mourning announced in Lebanon.

The court has expressed “its solidarity with the Lebanese people in these difficult times.”

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7:10 p.m.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are participating in a blood donation drive to try and help victims of the explosion in Beirut that has wounded thousands.

Dozens took part in a blood drive in the city of Khan Younis on Wednesday, which was sponsored by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. Organizers said they will coordinate with the International Committee of the Red Cross to try to get the blood donations delivered to Lebanon.

“I donated my blood in a moment of loyalty to the Lebanese people,” said Khan Younis resident Abu Diab Ouida.

The Gaza Strip has been under a joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade since 2007, after the Islamist militant group Hamas took power from Palestinian rivals in an armed coup. It remains unclear whether the donated blood will be able to reach Lebanon.

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6:50 p.m.

The Hungarian government says it is donating 1 million euros ($1.2 million) for rescue, salvage and reconstruction efforts in Lebanon.

The donation to be made through the Hungary Helps program, which provides assistance mainly to charities of Christian churches and other religious organizations around the world, will be given to Lebanon’s Maronite Church.

State Secretary Tristan Azbej said Wednesday that “the good friend is known in trouble and the Hungarians are good friends of the Lebanese people.”

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6:25 p.m.

Two U.S. officials say there are no indications that the massive explosion Tuesday evening in Lebanon’s capital was the result of an attack by either a nation state or proxy forces.

A senior Defense Department official and a member of the U.S. intelligence community told The Associated Press that, at the moment, the explosion appears to have been caused by improper storage of explosives.

Both individuals spoke Wednesday to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss intelligence briefings publicly.

The senior Defense Department official told the AP that they had “no idea” what President Donald Trump was referring to when he said during a press briefing at the White House on Tuesday that the explosion “looks like a terrible attack. Trump later said that his “great generals” told him that they felt like it was an attack.

Inquiries to the Pentagon on Tuesday about President Trump’s attack remarks were referred to the White House.

— By James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Florida

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6:20 p.m.

The Paris prosecutor’s office says a first assessment has established that 21 French nationals were among those injured in the Beirut port explosion.

In a statement Wednesday, the office said it is opening an “unintentional injuries” investigation into the blast and its causes.

The investigation will be carried out by the French National Gendarmerie, one of the country’s two national police forces.

The prosecutor’s statement said the group France Victimes is working to bring help and assistance to the French who were wounded, as well as their loved ones.

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6:15 p.m.

Tunisian President Kaïs Saied has ordered the dispatch of two military planes loaded with medical equipment, medicine and food to Lebanon following the deadly Beirut port explosion.

A statement from the presidency Wednesday said that the Tunisian head of state gave instructions to ministers of defense Imad Hazgui and interim Social Affairs and Health Minister Mohamed Habib K’chaou, to deliver this aid “urgently.”

According to the statement, a team of Tunisian doctors and nurses will also be sent to Lebanon to help treat the wounded, 100 of whom will be flown back to Tunisia aboard the two planes to be treated in Tunisian hospitals.

The Tunisian president sent a note of condolence to his Lebanese counterpart Michel Aoun on Tuesday, in which he assured him of Tunisia’s support and solidarity in this ordeal.

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5:35 p.m.

The Lebanese government has declared a two-week state of emergency, effectively giving the military full powers during this time after a massive explosion devastated the capital, Beirut.

The government announced the measure during a Cabinet meeting Wednesday.

It said it was putting an unspecified number of Beirut port officials under house arrest pending an investigation into how 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate came to be stored at the port for years.

The move comes amid speculation that negligence was to blame for the explosion that killed more than 100 people.

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5:20 p.m.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has extended his condolences to the Lebanese people and repeated an offer to send humanitarian aid to the country in the aftermath of the devastating explosion in Beirut that killed at least 100 people and injured 4,000.

Netanyahu addressed lawmakers in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, on Wednesday and said the Israeli government stood ready to assist the Lebanese “as human beings to human beings.” Netanyahu on Tuesday reached out to the UN to offer aid through indirect channels.

Opposition lawmakers heckled the prime minister during his remarks, and several were ejected from the Knesset hall.

Israel and Lebanon remain officially in a state of war and do not have formal diplomatic relations.

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5 p.m.

The World Health Organization says it is airlifting medical supplies to Lebanon to cover up to 1,000 trauma interventions and up to 1,000 surgical interventions following the explosion in Beirut.

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said supplies airlifted from a “humanitarian hub” in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates would be used to treat burns and wounds caused by broken glass and other debris from the explosion.

The airlift follows a request from the Lebanese health minister, and the supplies were expected to arrive in Lebanon later Wednesday.

Jasarevic said in an email that the WHO will “stand ready to also provide other urgent support.”

Meanwhile, Russian emergency officials said the first plane with medical workers and equipment for a make-shift hospital had left the country and was en route to Beirut. Four more flights were due to follow in the next 24 hours with more rescuers and medical workers, as well as equipment for a coronavirus testing lab and protective gear.

Some 150 Russian personnel will be deployed to Lebanon to help deal with consequences of the explosion that devastated Beirut.

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4:40 p.m.

Norway is offering 25 million kroner ($2.74 million) and 40 tons of medical equipment to Lebanon after the huge explosion in the harbor of the Lebanese capital.

“The situation is pretty confusing right now. In the coming days we will know more about what is needed in the long-term,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide told reporters on Wednesday.

She said the Norwegian embassy in Beirut suffered damage in the explosion but all staff members were safe. She said there is no indication of Norwegian citizens being injured in Tuesday’s blast, which killed at least 100 people.

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4:30 p.m.

Turkey is sending search and rescue teams along with emergency medical personnel to aid Lebanon in the aftermath of a devastating explosion.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said Wednesday that Turkey also is preparing a field hospital, humanitarian aid, medical equipment and medicine for use in Beirut.

“We will continue giving Lebanon all support with the hope that these difficult days will be overcome as soon as possible through solidarity and cooperation,” the spokesman said.

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4 p.m.

A government minister says the Netherlands is sending a search and rescue team made up of police, firefighters, trauma doctors and nurses to help find survivors and victims of the huge blast in Beirut.

Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Minister Sigrid Kaag told Dutch public broadcaster NPO Radio 1 the 67-strong team is leaving Wednesday evening “and will start work immediately.”

Kaag said one or two people were seriously wounded at the Netherlands’ Embassy and others suffered minor injuries as the diplomatic office suffered damage from the devastating explosion.

Kaag previously served as a United Nations under-secretary general in Lebanon and says she has friends there who are injured or have lost a home.

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3:55 p.m.

Gulf Arab states have offered various forms of support for Lebanon, though any sustained financial assistance is complicated by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group’s presence in government and on the ground.

Saudi-funded medical teams were dispatched from north Lebanon to Beirut to care for and to help transport the wounded on Tuesday, while a specialized team from a Saudi-funded medical center provided emergency health care services in the Lebanese capital, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

Kuwait and Qatar dispatched airplanes full of medical cargo. Qatari officials told The Associated Press that cargo from Doha included two large air-conditioned tents, kits for 1,000 beds, generators and diesel tanks, 50 ventilators, emergency medical supplies like first aid kits, gauze and needles, and medicine. A search and rescue team was also being sent to support.

Meanwhile, urgent medical and humanitarian supplies were being sent from the International Humanitarian City in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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3:50 p.m.

Turkish authorities say six Turkish citizens are among thousands of people injured in the massive explosion in Beirut that killed at least 100 people.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted that one Turkish national was in surgery and the others were lightly injured.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke on the phone with Lebanese President Michel Auon late Tuesday and tweeted his condolences. Erdogan’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, tweeted: “All our government agencies are ready to help the Lebanese people.” There were no immediate details.

Separately, Greek diplomatic officials say one Greek woman appears to be among the dead and two other Greek women are injured. Authorities say Greece has sent a search and rescue team to Beirut and will send more aid if needed.

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3:20 p.m.

Cyprus’ foreign minister says two police helicopters are on their way to the Lebanese capital with 10 emergency response personnel and eight sniffer dogs to help locate survivors in the rubble of buildings destroyed in Tuesday’s massive blast.

Cyprus is approximately 120 miles (180 kilometers) away from Beirut, but the explosion was heard and felt by many on the east Mediterranean island nation.

Minister Nikos Christodoulides told The Associated Press that Cyprus will also dispatch additional rescue crews, paramedics, non-perishable food items, aluminum and glass that Lebanese authorities have requested. Cyprus will also send chartered flights to Lebanon to repatriate Cypriot citizens wishing to return home.

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2:55 p.m.

Indonesian peacekeepers have been contributing in the evacuation of victims of the explosion in Beirut. The Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs says in a statement that the Garuda Contingent, as a member of United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon, is helping in the aftermath.

Of the 1,447 Indonesian citizens registered as living in Lebanon, 1,234 are part of the UNIFIL mission, while 213 others are civilians. One Indonesian national was injured in the explosion.

2:45 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron will travel to Lebanon on Thursday to offer support after a massive explosion in Beirut killed at least 100 people and injured more than 4,000.

Macron’s office tells The Associated Press that the French leader will meet with Lebanese political leaders. Lebanon is a former French protectorate and the countries retain close political and economic ties.

France is also sending several tons of aid and emergency workers.

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2:20 p.m.

Australia says it will donate 2 million Australian dollars ($1.4 million) in humanitarian support to Lebanon to help Beirut recover from Tuesday’s massive explosion.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne says in a statement the money will go to the World Food Program and the Red Cross to help ensure food, medical care and essential items are provided to those affected.

She says Australia and Lebanon have a strong relationship built on extensive community ties, and more than 230,000 Australians have Lebanese heritage.

An Australian was killed and the Australian Embassy in Lebanon was damaged in the explosion.

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2:10 p.m.

The European Union is activating its civil protection system to round up emergency workers and equipment from across the 27-nation bloc to help Beirut after Tuesday’s devastating explosion.

The EU commission says the plan is to urgently dispatch over 100 firefighters with vehicles, sniffer dogs and equipment designed to find people trapped in urban areas. The Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Poland and the Netherlands are taking part and others are expected to join.

The EU’s satellite mapping system will help Lebanese authorities to establish the extent of the damage. Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarcic says the EU “shares the shock and sadness” of Beirut residents and stands ready to provide extra help.

Separately, Iraq’s Health Ministry spokesman says Baghdad will send six trucks of urgent medical supplies and an emergency medical team. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has offered condolences to Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab, according to a statement from his office.

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1:25 p.m.

Germany says it is ready to send a team of 47 search-and-rescue experts to Beirut after the enormous explosion in the city’s port on Tuesday killed at least 100 people and injured thousands.

Germany also says its embassy was damaged in the blast but diplomats have reactivated an old building and are able to work.

Interior Ministry spokesman Bjoern Gruenewaelder says Germany’s THW technical assistance agency will send a team on Wednesday to assist the embassy. Gruenewaelder says Berlin is waiting for confirmation from Lebanon on the separate search-and-rescue team.

France is sending two planes with aid. French emergency workers include members of a special unit with chemical and other technological expertise trained to intervene in damaged industrial sites. Among their tasks will be to identify specific risks for products stored in the area and other risks resulting from the explosion, national civil security spokesman Michael Bernier says.

The 55 French workers also include disaster response experts, emergency nurses, doctors and firefighters.

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1:15 p.m.

The flag is flying at half-staff outside a United Nations-backed tribunal in the Netherlands that is set to announce verdicts this week in the trial of four Hezbollah members charged with involvement in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

Special Tribunal for Lebanon spokeswoman Wajed Ramadam says the flag is at half-staff “to honor those who lost their lives, who were wounded and who are still missing as a result of the explosion in Beirut yesterday.”

The tribunal will announce verdicts Friday in the long-running trial in absentia of four defendants charged in the Feb. 14, 2005, truck bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others and injured 226 more people.

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1:05 p.m.

International troops serving in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon are among those injured by the massive explosion that hit Beirut’s port on Tuesday.

Bangladesh’s military says at least 21 Bangladesh Navy members of the multinational force in Beirut were injured. The military’s Inter-Service Public Relations Office says one of the injured is in critical condition and had been admitted to the American University of Beirut Medical Center. Bangladesh Navy members have been working in Lebanon with the U.N. force since 2010 to prevent entry of illegal arms and ammunition.

Separately, Italy’s defense minister, Lorenzo Guerini, says one soldier assigned to Italy’s contingent in Lebanon is injured. Guerini also offers the help of Italian forces serving in the U.N. mission. Italy is the second largest contributor to the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon after Indonesia, with 1,021 troops deployed.

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12:05 p.m.

Pope Francis has offered prayers for the victims, their families, and for Lebanon after the enormous explosion in Beirut’s port on Tuesday. At least 100 people were killed and thousands injured.

The pontiff appealed that ‘’through the dedication of all the social, political and religious elements,’’ Lebanon “might face this extremely tragic and painful moment and, with the help of the international community, overcome the grave crisis they are experiencing.’’

International aid is heading to Beirut, with Poland sending a team of about 50 firefighters, including 39 rescuers with 4 dogs and a chemical rescue module. A Greek military transport plane is heading to Lebanon with a search and rescue team with specialized equipment and a sniffer dog, while Cyprus says it will be sending help.

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11:05 a.m.

Russia’s emergency officials say the country will send five planeloads of aid to Beirut after an explosion in the Lebanese capital’s port killed at least 100 people and injured thousands on Tuesday.

Russia’s Ministry for Emergency Situations will send rescuers, medical workers, a makeshift hospital and a lab for coronavirus testing to Lebanon.

France, Jordan and other countries also say aid is on the way.

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10:35 a.m.

International aid in the form of emergency workers and medical personnel is heading to Lebanon a day after a massive explosion devastated Beirut’s port, killing at least 100 people and wounding thousands.

France says it is sending two planes with dozens of emergency workers, a mobile medical unit and 15 tons of aid. French President Emmanuel Macron’s office says the aid should allow for the treatment of some 500 victims.

French peacekeepers stationed in Lebanon, a former French protectorate, have been helping since the explosions, Macron’s office said.

Jordan says a military field hospital including all necessary personnel will be dispatched, according to the Royal Court. Egypt has opened a field hospital in Beirut to receive the wounded.

Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamacek says Lebanon has accepted an offer to send a team of 37 rescuers with sniffer dogs to Beirut. Denmark says it is ready to provide humanitarian assistance to Lebanon, and Greece says it is ready to help Lebanese authorities “with all means at its disposal.”

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09:45 a.m.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab, in a short televised speech, has appealed to all countries and friends of Lebanon to extend help to the small nation, saying: “We are witnessing a real catastrophe.” He reiterated his pledge that those responsible for the massive explosion at Beirut’s port will pay the price, without commenting on the cause.

Diab’s speech came the morning after the blast killed at least 100 people and wounded thousands.

Smoke was still rising from the port Wednesday morning. Major downtown streets were littered with debris and damaged vehicles, and building facades were blown out.

Lebanese Red Cross official George Kettaneh said at least 100 people were killed and more than 4,000 were wounded, and said the toll could rise further.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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