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Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry shared emergency numbers for Lebanese nationals in Turkey and Syria, where more than 8,000 people have so far been counted dead following Monday’s devastating earthquakes. A local Lebanese official and an official at the Lebanese Embassy in Syria confirmed the death of Greek Catholic priest Imad Daher in Aleppo, the fifth Lebanese citizen to have been killed. The Foreign Affairs Ministry was still not able to provide its own tally. The mayor of al-Ghzayleh in Akkar governorate confirmed to L'Orient Today the death of Suzanne Chamma in Antakya, southern Turkey, after rescue workers said they had saved her husband, Mohammad Chamma, and son from the rubble of a collapsed building. Chamma is the sixth Lebanese citizen to have been counted dead in the quake. At least three other Lebanese nationals remain missing in Turkey, thought to be trapped in the rubble of Antakya’s Ozcan Hotel, according to an estimate from the Lebanese Ambassador to Turkey Ghassan Moallem. Moallem added that a dozen other Lebanese citizens in Turkey were confirmed safe and are coordinating their evacuation with the Lebanese embassy. After meeting yesterday, the Higher Defense Council announced that dozens of search and rescue specialists from the Lebanese Army, Civil Defense, Fire Brigade and Red Cross had been sent to aid relief efforts in Turkey and Syria.
A Higher Judicial Council meeting scheduled for yesterday failed to reach quorum. Only four of the seven current council members attended the meeting — three of the council’s vacancies remain unfilled — and so failed to reach the six needed to make quorum. Caretaker Justice Minister Henri Khoury reportedly called for the meeting to appoint an alternate judge in Aug. 4, 2020 Beirut port blast investigation. Last year — months after judicial vacancies preventing rulings on complaints against Bitar paralyzed the probe — the council approved the appointment of an alternative judge to rule on urgent matters in the case, particularly the status of detainees who were arrested in the blast’s immediate aftermath. Lebanon’s top prosecutor judge Ghassan Oueidat, however, ordered the release of the detainees last month and sued Bitar, alleging the lead investigator’s attempt to relaunch the probe in January had overstepped his authority. HJC president Souheil Abboud faced backlash for his support of Bitar from the four sitting council members, who are vocally in favor of removing the lead investigator.
The Nabatieh governmental hospital evacuated its patients yesterday after an explosion caused significant interior damage. The exact cause has yet to be determined, but hospital director Hassan Wazni speculated the blast could be linked to either a gas or oxygen leak. No injuries from the explosion were reported, but the hospital administration ordered the evacuation of some 150 patients as a precautionary measure. Rescue teams arrived at the hospital shortly after the blast resounded through the area.
Caretaker Health Minister Firass Abiad chaired a meeting with public, private and international health sector representatives to discuss readiness for earthquake and crisis response, amid new reports of quake-related damage in the Bekaa and Akkar. The Health Ministry’s media office said weekly meetings would continue to be held to assess health institutions’ capacity and ensure rapid and effective crisis response, the state-run National News Agency reported. Meanwhile, a glass factory in Taalabaya, in the Bekaa, called for reparations, claiming the earthquake caused $200,000 worth of damage. The same day, the mayor of Bzal in Akkar called for reparations to finance restoration work on homes in the area, which had sustained “dangerous cracks” after the earthquake. Caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi declared “a state of municipal emergency,” Monday, and called on municipalities to “identify any damage to buildings and report them to the Higher Relief Council and the Disaster Risk Management Unit.” The president of the Lebanese Association of Property Owners, Andira al-Zouhairi, also on Monday, warned of the “increased risk of building collapse” following the earthquake, exacerbated by the “harsh weather” and a lack of “regular building maintenance and repair.”
Commercial banks observed the first day of an open-ended strike Tuesday, to protest a ruling allowing a lawsuit to resume against Fransabank. Lawyers' collective Mouttahidoun ("United") — representing the plaintiffs suing Fransabank in an effort to obtain their deposits in cash rather than bank checks — announced a day earlier that they would continue the proceedings, the state-run National News Agency reported. The Association of Banks in Lebanon announced Monday an open-ended strike, limiting operations to ATMs after the Court of Cassation suspended an appeal against a seizure and execution order against Fransabank.
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read article from yesterday: “Earthquake reawakens trauma from the Beirut blast”
Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz
Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry shared emergency numbers for Lebanese nationals in Turkey and Syria, where more than 8,000 people have so far been counted dead following Monday’s devastating earthquakes. A local Lebanese official and an official at the Lebanese Embassy in Syria confirmed the death of Greek Catholic priest Imad Daher in...