Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Wednesday revised estimates of material damage caused by the recent explosion in Beirut to $15 billion, in addition to the extensive humanitarian toll the blast took.
The explosion, which occurred the afternoon of August 4, flattened large swathes of the Lebanese capital after 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse reportedly caught fire. As well as the vast material damage, hundreds of thousands of people have also been left homeless.
“Initial estimates of the losses suffered by Lebanon exceed $15 billion, in addition to other material losses, and damage to the port and the need for building materials to rebuild the neighborhoods smashed by the bombing,” Aoun said during a telephone conversation with Spanish King Felipe VI, reports the official Lebanese News Agency.
According to a statement from the Lebanese General Directorate of Security Affairs, at least 3,972 buildings and 4,214 vehicles were damaged by last Tuesday’s explosion. The official death toll has risen to 171, while a further 6,500 were wounded. Around 100 people are still said to be in critical condition.
Investigations by the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) also determined that around half of the country’s major health facilities were currently “non-functional” as a result of the blast, leading to a shortage of 500 hospital beds at a time of unprecedented crisis.
As of last week, Lebanon had reported around 7,000 coronavirus cases of the Chinese coronavirus, a relatively low figure given its population of around five million. Yet there are now concerns a rapid uptick in the virus at a time when hospitals are already under intense pressure.
The government had ordered a two-stage provisional lockdown at the end of July, but has since scrapped this measure because of the explosion. On Tuesday, the country recorded its highest number of daily cases, with that figure only likely to rise as people ignore social distancing guidelines.
“While we have to still continue to respond to the consequences of the blast, we also need to stay vigilant with respect to Covid [Chinese coronavirus],” said W.H.O. regional coordinator Dr. Richard Brennan.
Before the explosion, Lebanon was already struggling under the pressure of a major economic and political crisis that has left over half its population living below the poverty line. The country is now receiving hundreds of millions worth in financial and humanitarian relief packages from governments, organizations, and individuals determined to help rebuild the city as soon as possible.