At least four Bangladeshis and two Filipinos were among scores of people killed in the massive explosion that rocked Beirut on Tuesday, officials confirmed on Wednesday, while Asian governments joined other countries worldwide in expressing sympathy for Lebanon.
More than 100 expatriates from Bangladesh (99) and from the Philippines (10) were also among thousands who were injured when at least 1,000 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded into a huge fire ball in a port in the Lebanese capital, Bangladeshi and Philippine officials said.
“We have come to be aware of the deaths of four Bangladeshi civilians. They are Mehedi Hasan and Russel Miah from Brahmanbaria, Mohammed Mizan from Madaripur and Rejaul Karim from Comilla district,” Abdullah Al Mamun, the first secretary at the Bangladesh Embassy in Beirut, told BenarNews.
The blast occurred at a warehouse storing about 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate – a material used in fertilizer and explosives. Video footage showed a fire erupting at the warehouse before the explosion sent a mushroom cloud into the sky and sent shock waves that reached hundreds of kilometers away.
Emergency officials in Beirut reported that at least 100 people were killed while an estimated 4,000 others were injured.
The uncle of Mohammed Mizan spoke to BenarNews.
“Mizan was the only support for his mother, a physically challenged woman. His mother-in-law, who is staying in Beirut, identified his dead body,” Bazlur Rahman said. “Now we seek support from the government to bring back his body so he can be laid to rest on this soil.”
Victim Mehedi Hasan arrived in Beirut about six years ago while his father was in Bahrain.
“His father could not see him for nearly a decade, now he receives the news of his son’s death,” Hasan’s cousin, Tajrin Akther Hamila told BenarNews.
A Bangladeshi working in a supermarket about 20 minutes from the port survived the explosion.
“I heard the big bang and everything in the supermarket was falling down and breaking,” Mohammad Razu told BenarNews. “I thought the world was being destroyed and that death was near.”
Hundreds of thousands of people from South and Southeast Asian nations work in Lebanon, including personnel with contingents of U.N. Peacekeeping forces from countries in those regions. Twenty-one Blue Helmets from Bangladesh were among those injured in Tuesday’s blast, government officials said.
As many as 150,000 Bangladeshis live in Lebanon, according to embassy officials who said 3,500 to 4,000 were in areas hit by the blast.
Philippine officials, meanwhile, said they were gathering information about citizens in Lebanon. About 75 percent of the 33,000 Filipinos who live and work in that country are believed to be in Beirut, according to Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
“As of now, everything is very fluid because it hasn’t been 24 hours since the incident took place and as you’ve seen, the explosion was really massive. We are trying to tell all our overseas Filipino workers in Lebanon and all the next of kin that we are doing the best we can to assist all our nationals,” Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola told reporters in an online briefing.
Philippine Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the central government would expedite the repatriation of the bodies of the two Filipinos killed in the explosion, but whom he did not identify.
“The next of kin of those who died have been duly notified and the necessary assistance is being extended to the families for the immediate repatriation of the dead overseas Filipino workers (OFW),” Bello said.
Martin Andanar, secretary for the presidential communications office, conveyed condolences to the families of those killed and offered to support Filipinos still in Lebanon.
“We assure everyone that our government is ensuring the safety of our OFW there through the Philippine Embassy in Beirut and that concerned government agencies are providing the assistance their families need,” he said in a statement.
Injured aboard ships
Among those injured were 21 members of the Bangladesh Navy participating in a United Nations peacekeeping mission, and 10 Filipinos who jumped from a cruise ship they were working on. The BNS Bijoy was about 200 meters (656 feet) from the blast site and the cruise ship was about 400 meters (1,312 feet) away, according to officials.
Bangladesh officials said a senior warrant officer was in critical condition.
“The other crew members of Bangladesh Navy have been admitted to Hammoud Hospital University Medical Center after primary treatment under the supervision of United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. All of them are now out of danger,” the Bangladeshi military’s Inter-Services Public Relation Directorate said in a news release on Wednesday confirming the injuries.
“They were among 110 Bangladeshis staying on the ship,” Ambassador Jahangir Al Mustahidur Rahman told BenarNews after visiting the ship.
Embassy officials said the other injured Bangladeshis were located at hospitals and treatment centers in Beirut.
According to the Philippine foreign office, one of the seafarers who jumped from the cruise ship was missing while the 10 others were accounted for. The 10 suffered minor injuries and were with the management of Abou Merhi Cruises at Ain el Mraiseh, Beirut, the company that operates the Orient Queen Cruises ship.
Meanwhile, Indonesian and Malaysian officials joined other countries in sending condolences to the people of Lebanon.
The Indonesian Foreign Ministry said one citizen who suffered minor injuries was in stable condition and communicating. Nearly 1,500 Indonesians live in Lebanon, including 1,234 peacekeepers in the Garuda contingent serving with the United Nations.
“The government of Indonesia offers its condolences to the government of Lebanon and the families of the victims,” the ministry said in a statement.
Malaysian officials said they had no reports of citizens injured by the Beirut blast and advised those living in Lebanon to prioritize personal safety and follow the instructions of relevant authorities.
“Malaysia stands ready to support Lebanon in any way possible,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.