Second Swiss humanitarian aid team dispatched to Beirut

Rescue workers are still searching for missing people at the blast site. Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Switzerland has sent a second team of 10 specialists to assist the Lebanese rescue effort following a huge explosion in Beirut on Tuesday. The blast claimed more than 150 lives, injured some 5,000 people and left around 300,000 homeless.

This content was published on August 8, 2020 - 10:36

The Swiss Humanitarian Aid Corps workers are accompanied by three damage site experts from the armed forces, the foreign ministry said on Thursday.

An initial team of ten Swiss experts, comprising of engineers, infrastructure specialists, a security advisor, a logistician, a telecommunications manager and a psychologist, have been in Lebanon since Thursday to evaluate the situation.

Switzerland has pledged to contribute CHF500,000 ($550,381) to the Lebanese branch of the Red Cross to help with emergency response measures. 

Meanwhile, the Swiss ambassador to Lebanon has spoken about being caught in the massive blast in Beirut earlier this week, which left her with leg injuries. Monika Schmutz Kirgöz told Swiss public broadcaster SRF that the embassy is now concentrating on helping the country recover from the tragedy.

Schmutz Kirgöz was in her office of the Beirut embassy, housed on the 14th and 15th floors of the building, when the dockside warehouse detonated on Tuesday. “In the explosion, everything that could fly out did fly out. There were no more windows and doors. I was thrown several metres through the air,” she said.

“I can only remember the unbelievable force of the explosion. I was very lucky, and I am thankful that I got away with leg injuries. At the same time, I'm still in shock. Everyone who experienced this will probably have to deal with the trauma for a long time.”

The blast that has been blamed on a store of ammonium nitrate in the warehouse. Many buildings were destroyed or damaged in a large radius, and dozens of people are still missing.

Apart from Ambassador Schmutz Kirgöz, there are no reports of other casualties among the 1,500 Swiss nationals who live in Lebanon, or from Swiss tourists.

Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis and President Simonetta Sommaruga have expressed solidarity with the Lebanese people. Schmutz Kirgöz added that the Swiss embassy continues to operate from a different location in the city and reiterated Switzerland’s determination to help those in need.

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