On 4 August, a large explosion occurred in the port area of Beirut, alongside an ongoing fire. The blast rippled through several areas of the capital, shattering windows and doors and wounding many people.  

The Lebanese Red Cross’ Secretary General, Georges Kettane, described it as “a huge catastrophe. There are victims and casualties everywhere.”

There are reports of significant damage to structures in the nearby downtown area – mostly broken windows due to the blast and collapsing balconies. The sound of the explosion could be heard as far away as the island of Cyprus, located in the Mediterranean Sea, 240 km away. The cause of the blast remains unclear and is still being investigated.

According to the Lebanese Red Cross, more than 150 people have been killed and more than 5,000 people are reported injured. Authorities say that about 200 people are reported missing. Nearby hotels and schools are currently helping to shelter people who have been displaced from their homes. Authorities expect the death toll to rise further in the coming hours and days as emergency workers are still digging through rubble to rescue people and remove the dead. 

Hospitals are overwhelmed and are having to turn away patients with non-life-threatening wounds in order to provide lifesaving assistance to those with severe injuries.  

Our thoughts are with our colleagues from the Lebanese Red Cross, who are working on the front line to support people affected by the tragedy.

Red Cross response

(as of 7 August 2020)
  • The Lebanese Red Cross has mobilised all of its emergency medical support. More than 125 ambulances have been deployed to the site of the explosion, rescuing injured people and transporting them to medical sites. 
  • The Lebanese Red Cross has set up triage and first aid stations to ensure that people with non-critical injuries can be treated and comforted while the worst-affected survivors are being taken to hospital.
  • The Lebanese Red Cross has distributed food, water, hygiene kits, mattresses, masks, gloves and other essential relief items to families affected.
  • The Lebanese Red Cross provides temporary shelters for 1,000 families for the first 72 hours after the crisis.
  • The Lebanese Red Cross has 36 health centres and nine mobile medical units operating in all regions of the country to provide medical services to the people in need free of charge.
  • For live updates on the Lebanese Red Cross’ response, follow their Twitter account here.

Help the people of Beirut

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is appealing for 20 million Swiss francs (US$ 21.8 million dollars) to rapidly scale up emergency medical support and economic relief for survivors of Tuesday’s explosion at the Port of Beirut.

Funds raised through the IFRC Emergency Appeal will go toward Lebanese Red Cross ambulance service and will support the purchase and delivery of emergency medical supplies, medicine, livelihood support and the rehabilitation of damaged Lebanese Red Cross premises.

Donations can be made by wire transfer or via the iRaiser platform. Please note that if you are making a donation to the IFRC Emergency Appeal, it will be a donation to the IFRC and not through New Zealand Red Cross. This means that you will not receive a tax receipt.

Missing family members

Kiwis who have lost contact with family members due to the blast may be able to request assistance from our Restoring Family Links service.

We encourage people to try to reach their loved ones through their usual means of contact first, but when contact cannot be made, concerned family members may contact the two Lebanese Red Cross hotlines: +961 71 910269 or +961 76 995587 (the name of the missing person and a personal photo are requested).

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)'s Restoring Family Links team in Beirut can be contacted on +961(0)3186386 or BEY_Tracing@icrc.org.

If you have any questions regarding the above, please don’t hesitate to contact New Zealand Red Cross’ Restoring Family Links team at familylinks@redcross.org.nz or enquire through our website.


For more information or key spokespeople in Lebanon or Geneva, enquiries can be made via communications@redcross.org.nz or 04 495 0139.