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Beirut Explosion: World Leaders to Attend Virtual Conference to Secure Aid for Lebanon

On August 9, world leaders will hold talks to raise aid for Beirut, five days after the massive explosion which devastated the Lebanese capital.

The virtual conference – set up by France and the United Nations – starts at 14:00 Lebanon time.

President Donald Trump has said he plans to join the call.

Officials estimate the explosion at the warehouse, which stored 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, caused up to $15 billion in damage.

The blast left at least 158 people dead, 5,000 injured and 300,000 homeless.

On August 8, thousands of people protested in Beirut. Police fired tear gas at stone-throwing protesters and some demonstrators storming government ministries.

In a TV address, Lebanese PM Hassan Diab said he would ask for early elections as a way out of the crisis. The issue will be discussed in cabinet on August 10.

Lebanon was already mired in a deep economic crisis and struggling to tackle the coronavirus pandemic before the explosion tore through Beirut.

An anti-government protest movement erupted last October, fuelled by the financial situation and a collapsing currency.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron visited Beirut on August 6, and announced he wanted to co-ordinate international aid for Lebanon.

A statement from France’s presidential palace says August 9 conference “will aim to mobilize Lebanon’s main international partners and to organize and co-ordinate emergency support from the international community”.

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Representatives from EU member states, the UK, Russia, China, Egypt and Jordan will all take part, with many others invited to attend.

In a series of tweets, President Trump said he had discussed the “catastrophic event” in Beirut with President Macron and would himself join the call.

He tweeted: “We will be having a conference call on Sunday with President Macron, leaders of Lebanon, and leaders from various other parts of the world. Everyone wants to help!”

A number of countries have already pledged millions of dollars worth of aid and sent ships, health workers and materiel to assist Beirut.

However, UN agencies have called for more help and warned about the massive challenge ahead. Many homes are without water or electricity, there are growing worries about food shortages, and cases of Covid-19 are spiking in the country – an additional challenge for hospitals which are already overwhelmed.