The devastating blast at Beirut port last week has shocked Italy and worsened the plight of bankrupt Lebanon's population, deputy foreign minister Emanuela Del Re said on Tuesday.
"The 4th August blast has aggravated the already dire humanitarian situation in the country," Del Re told a ministerial meeting on Lebanon chaired by United Nations humanitarian affairs chief Mark Lowcock.
"Every Italian has been shocked by the scale of the catastrophe and is worried for the population. As a longstanding partner and friend of Lebanon, Italy has immediately responded to the most pressing needs," Del Re went on.
Coordinated by the civil protection agency and defence ministries, humanitarian flights left from Italy on 5th and 6th August with chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and Fire Brigade experts aboard to assess the structural instability of buildings, as well as 8.5 tonnes of essential medical supplies, Del Re stated.
"We are ready to further increase our response to the requests and appeals of the UN agencies, the Red Cross and the International Red Crescent and we are evaluating further possible allocations," she said.
The two teams of Italian experts are working in coordination with the Lebanese authorities, Del Re said.
"In the coming days we intend to approve initiatives for some 12 million euros to be implemented by the UN agencies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent including one million euros to be given to the Lebanon Humanitarian Fund," she said.
The Lebanon Humanitarian Fund was set up in 2014 by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
"We commend OCHA for monitoring humanitarian needs on the ground," Del Re underlined.
Italy urgently needs to carry out an effective needs assessment and coordinate its activities, Del Re said, noting that the government is in contact with Italian non-government organisations in Lebanon.
"At national level we are encouraging different sectors of civil society to provide assistance in response to immediate and clear needs," she said.
The massive explosion at Beirut's port last week reportedly killed over 200 people, injured 5,000 and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
A fire is believed to have caused the detonation of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been stored for six years without safety measures at Beirut's port.
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