The Armenian government clarified on Friday that it will send three planeloads of humanitarian aid to Lebanon following a massive explosion in Beirut which killed at least 154 people and injured thousands of others.
Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian said that about 12 tons of medication, foodstuffs and other vital supplies will be delivered to the Lebanese capital on Saturday evening. Two more such flights will be carried out from Yerevan in the following days, Avinian said at a meeting of senior government officials chaired by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
The government pledged to provide relief aid immediately after Tuesday’s explosion at Beirut port warehouses. Pashinian described Lebanon as “one of Armenia’s closest friends,” alluding to the existence of a sizable and influential Armenian community in the Middle Eastern state.
At least 11 members of the community were reportedly among the victims of the explosion. The devastating blast wave also destroyed or seriously damaged many Lebanese Armenian homes.
Avinian said that several Armenian government officials and lawmakers, including Zareh Sinanyan, the commissioner of Diaspora affairs, will also fly to Beirut on Saturday on board the transport plane. He said they will try to ascertain other needs of Lebanon’s government and Armenian community.
Sinanyan told reporters that Yerevan was also prepared to send rescue teams and medics to Beirut. He said the Lebanese authorities turned down the offer because the Armenian side could not airlift the kind of heavy machinery that is used by rescuers from other countries sent to Beirut.
The blast and its devastating consequences have led to calls for the evacuation of Lebanon’s ethnic Armenian nationals willing to relocate to Armenia. Some opposition politicians and public figures as well as Lebanese-born citizens or residents of Armenia have urged the Armenian government to launch special Yerevan-Beirut flights for that purpose.
Zulal Tsaturian, a Lebanese Armenian woman, immigrated to Armenia with her husband and children three years ago. Her parents and brother lived until Tuesday in an apartment located just a few hundred meters from the Beirut port. It was seriously damaged by the blast.
“They are still in shock,” Tsaturian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
“Now that they are homeless, they would love to come and join me here and start a new life in the homeland,” she said. “There is no life there anymore. Lebanon’s decline began a long time ago.”