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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Qatar condoles Lebanese president as fuel tank explosion kills dozens


On Sunday, Akkar witnessed an explosion that claimed dozens of lives, leaving hospitals scrambling to treat injured victims. 

Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani sent his condolences to Lebanese President Michele Aoun after at least 28 people were killed in a fuel tank explosion on Sunday morning.

“The Amir sent a cable of condolences to President of the Lebanese Republic, on the victims of the fuel tank explosion in the town of Altalil in the Akkar region, wishing the injured a speedy recovery,” Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported on Sunday.

At least 28 people were burned to death while around 79 others are still suffering with severe burns and wounds at hospitals in Akkar, Lebanese media reported.

The explosion rocked the Altalil village in Akkar, northern Lebanon, at a hidden fuel storage that was earlier confiscated by the Lebanese army.

The victims were transferred to different hospitals in the area while charities, citizens and NGOs rushed to gather medication for the victims amid a shortage and lack of supplies. 

The explosion came just weeks after the anniversary of the horrific Beirut port blast and amid a dire state of economic distress across the country.

Just hours prior to the blast on Sunday, hospitals across the country warned of a state of emergency, noting a lack of electricity and medicine would kill dozens of patients on life support.

Read also: ‘This is inhumane’: Qatar’s community scrambles to help Lebanon amid total collapse

Hospitals in Akkar, one of Lebanon’s poorest areas close to the Syrian border, were forced to turn away victims due to lack of equipment and medication to treat severe burns. 

The tragic explosion on Sunday took place as the Lebanese army was distributing confiscated gasoline from a plot in Altalil to citizens.

The National News Agency said the explosion erupted after a clash between “residents that gathered around the tank to fill up gasoline.”

Witnesses reported around 200 people were around the site of the explosion. Soldiers and rescue teams are still searching for missing victims.

Earlier, Caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan stressed on the need to send severe cases abroad for treatment.

Turkey quickly responded and sent a plane to evacuate and transfer some of the victims to receive treatment. It also delivered medical aid to help victims at hospitals in Akkar.

Additionally, the National News Agency said Kuwait sent 7.5 tonnes of medical aid to Lebanon. 

“Three people with severe burns were evacuated yesterday for treatment in Istanbul hospitals. Lebanese and Turkish medical teams decided not to transfer a fourth injured person because there was a danger to his life, so he was transferred back to Geitawi hospital,” Hassan said, according to Lebanese media Al Jadeed.

“The fear of losing fuel, medicines, and necessary supplies to treat the injured is our concern now,” he added.

Meanwhile, the head of parliament’s health committee, MP Assem Araji, said in a tweet that “the Lebanese army should give confiscated fuel stored in stations and warehouses to hospitals suffering from a diesel shortage that could lead to power cuts and risks the lives of patients.” 

The army has been running a fuel confiscation campaign since Saturday after it was discovered that black market dealers were storing thousands of litres of gas and fuel while the country suffers a fuel shortage, leading to endless lines at all open stations across the country. 

As the death toll from those unable to access medicines mounted, former Minister of Health Mohamad Jawad Khalifeh told television host George Salibi in an interview on Sunday that medicines are actually available, denying rumours of scarcity. 

However, it is difficult for the average Lebanese to afford the medication.

The explosion sparked public outrage with residents of Akkar and supporters from neighbouring cities launching protests to denounce negligence.

The Lebanese military has since launched an investigation to probe the incident, while President Michel Aoun has summoned the Supreme Defence Council to discuss a response to the issue.

“At around 2am on Sunday, a fuel tanker that had been seized earlier by the army to distribute to the people exploded at an open area used for storing crushed stones in the village of Tleil in Akkar, leaving casualties among civilians and military personnel,” the army said on its website.

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