On 4th August 2020, in the Port of Beirut in Lebanon, a large fire broke out in Warehouse 12. Firefighters rallied to the scene.
Unbeknownst to residents in Beirut, since 2013, Warehouse 12 had been housing 2,750 tonnes of the fertiliser Ammonium Nitrate, which was taken off a stricken Moldovan cargo ship, the MV Rhosus originally bound for Mozambique.
Shortly after 18:00 (15:00 BST) the roof caught fire which triggered a series of small explosions. Eyewitnesses said it looked and sounded like fireworks going off. Thirty seconds later, there was a colossal explosion that sent a mushroom cloud in to the air and a supersonic blast wave radiating through the city, levelling buildings and blowing out windows as far as five miles away from the epicentre of the blast.
In all, 300,000 people were made temporarily homeless and over 200 people tragically lost their lives from the detonation of the Ammonium Nitrate
School in a Bag corporate partners Blake were keen to see where a combined effort could help and after initial zoom meetings with charities on the ground in Lebanon, we pledged to support Triumphant Mercy with a brief to support victims of the blast and Syrian families living in refugee settlements. In May 2021, a consignment of 240 SchoolBags were shipped to Beirut and now that the schools have started term after the summer, the first of the SchoolBags have been handed out to families affected by the devastating explosion by Janane Matar, Director of Triumphant Mercy and her team.
Over a year on from the blast, the situation for so many residents in Beirut is desperate. Janane writes:
“We have visited people in their homes, we have assessed people and we chose the ones who really need assistance. Please do not be fooled by appearances. These families are the ones that were heavily hit by the Beirut blast. They lost literally everything. Some don’t have any furniture, their house is still not completely rebuilt.”
Lebanon is currently gripped by an economic collapse with huge inflation rates and an unemployment rate of over 50%. Janane adds:
“Even though people look well dressed, it doesn’t mean they can even afford the minimum. We have been giving those families that you are seeing in the images, even rice and beans. We have neighbours who have a car and a house but can’t buy food now. People lost jobs and the economy is so bad that those who used to earn 1000$ per month are earning now around 120$ per month.
Now school will start and so many have expressed such a relief to receive the backpack and the material inside because every item now is so costly. The contents of one of your SchoolBags is worth 600,000 Lebanese Lira - for some, this is more than they make in a month.”
The feedback from Janane above proves just how important our partners on the ground are for identifying the beneficiaries with the greatest needs. And whilst these families and children are not from a third world country, their appreciation for a SchoolBag is a huge contribution towards the current plight that they find themselves in, courtesy of the blast on 4th August 2020.
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