FIRE AID member, SARAID responds to tragic explosion in Lebanon.
On Tuesday 4th August an explosion at the Port of Beirut, Lebanon killed more than 220 people and injured over 5,000. The explosion caused widespread damage and destruction and left more than 300,000 people with no shelter. A two-week state of emergency was declared on 5th August and national and international search and rescue teams, medical professionals, and disaster management experts responded to support the emergency efforts.
Our members Search and Rescue Assistance in Disasters (SARAID) were one of the first organisations to respond to the disaster. SARAID was tasked to provide direct support to the Lebanese authorities, working with the Municipality of Beirut and the Lebanese Military. SARAID deployed a team of six from the UK and was operational in country on 6th August 2020. Once in country, a need was identified to mobilise a second team, and a further five people were deployed on 8th August 2020. The teams aimed to:
- Establish the Damage Assessment Coordination Centre (DACC) and provide coordination between the International USAR Teams in country and the Local Emergency Management Agency.
At the request of the Governor of Beirut and the Municipal Chief Engineer, SARAID set up and staffed the DACC. The centre supported both the Lebanese authorities and international assessors during coordination, damage assessment and data collection stages. The aim of the centre was to use local resources and experts to work in partnership with the international teams. The centre effectively delivered support and built capacity enabling the team to hand over to local authorities to manage the long-term processes and coordination.
- Support Lebanese Authorities in creating a common operating picture and standard of damage assessment.
SARAID implemented a placard system, based on red, amber and green classifications of buildings, which was crucial to ensuring findings lead to actions. The team advised the local engineers on a tried and tested system of marking buildings to ensure that they are recognised as inhabitable, restricted or uninhabitable, which allowed for the relocation of residents / tenants and speed up the process of rectification works.
- Provide sustainability by capacity building, education and train the trainers programmes.
Having collected observations of how the damage assessments are implemented on the ground in Beirut, the team developed a workshop for the Beirut municipality engineers with the aim of advising them how to collect and process the data from the assessments in a consistent and effective way. The workshop was designed to initiate discussions and was very well received by the Lebanese municipal engineers.
SARAID also ran a train the trainer on sectorisation for the Lebanese Army, which was well received.
Alongside the DACC, SARAID operated a Quick Reaction Team, which was made up of one SARAID Engineer and two USAR Technicians who were available 24/7. This team went to two call outs to help the local engineers assess buildings, one of which required the street shutting down due to safety concerns.