Rescuers search in the rubble of a collapsed building in Beirut after getting signals there may be a survivor nearby. (AP)

Rescuers search in the rubble of a collapsed building in Beirut after getting signals there may be a survivor nearby. (AP)

Other countries, including South America’s Chile, sent people to help clean up. (AP)

Other countries, including South America’s Chile, sent people to help clean up. (AP)

The leader of the Chilean rescuers, center, gives his team direction in where to start searching the site. (AP)

The leader of the Chilean rescuers, center, gives his team direction in where to start searching the site. (AP)

Heritage houses that were destroyed by the Beirut explosion (AP)

Heritage houses that were destroyed by the Beirut explosion (AP)

Help for Lebanon

Posted: November 1, 2020

It was 6 p.m. in Beirut, Lebanon. Father Richard Abi Saleh was praying in his church. Then everything went wrong.

“I started seeing the ceiling dropping on me,” he remembers. And then the windows broke. Father Saleh realized what was happening.

A gigantic explosion had shaken Beirut. Its shockwave moved through neighborhoods. Apartments were destroyed. Glass and debris blanketed the streets. Nearly 180 people died. Six thousand were wounded. Around 350,000 are now homeless because of the explosion.

What caused this disaster? People have part of the answer. We know that 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate were hidden at the city’s port. Ammonium nitrate is a chemical used for fertilizer. This stuff explodes—sometimes by accident, and sometimes on purpose. Something—we don’t know what—lit the chemical on fire. It blew up. Devastation followed. The explosion destroyed most of the city’s grain supply. People relied on it for food.

Lebanon needs help.

But who will help . . . and how?

Nations rush to give aid. But they also act carefully. Would you give a lot of money to someone who didn’t know how to spend it well? The explosion shows Lebanon is in trouble. Corruption has seeped into the government. Leaders often use their power for their own selfish gain instead of for the good of their people.

The ammonium nitrate was stored in Beirut for six years. Most people had no idea they lived near a giant pile of dangerous chemicals. But port workers and government officials knew about it. Clearly, the government was not protecting the Lebanese people.

French President Emmanuel Macron visited Beirut after the explosion. He promised money to rebuild the city. But he said it would not fall into “corrupt hands.” The United States and its allies send investigators to Beirut. They seek the truth about what happened. The nations will send help if Lebanon makes changes. On the “to-do” list: Get rid of corruption. Create a plan for good government. And make sure the Lebanese people agree with it.