Monday, August 21, 2006

World Civilization Rallies To Begin Long Repair Of Fragile Middle East Civilization

"Relief teams in Lebanon hope many of the heavily damaged buildings can be salvaged and are requesting the United Nations send more supplies for temporary repairs and to restore electricity and water services, officials said Monday.

In Aita al-Shaab, a village just north of the Israeli border, for example, only 100 of the 1,300 houses remain, said Jack Redden, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

''The rest were either totally destroyed or damaged to the extent that no one could live in them,'' Redden said.

UNHCR is providing plastic and metal sheeting and other items ''so that people can get their houses back to at least the stage where they can live in them while they continue to repair them,'' Redden said.

A convoy of trucks loaded with tents was traveling Monday from Damascus to Beirut, he added.

A U.N. team found in the southern villages of Markaba and Houla that people didn't have water and power and the roads, fuel stations, health facilities were heavily damaged, said Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

''In Markaba, the damage was very extensive with 50 percent of buildings destroyed,'' said Byrs, noting that ''while most of the damage appears reparable, the most urgent need is the provision of water, food and shelter support.''

A U.N. convoy of seven trucks brought relief supplies from Tyre to Aita al Shaab on Sunday, and another convoy went from Beirut to Houla, said Byrs.

An assessment mission to Nabatiyeh reported that about half of the houses were destroyed and that many bombs and other unexploded ordnance were scattered on the ground, said Byrs.

U.N. aid workers said the Baalbek-Hermel area, a Hezbollah stronghold heavily hit by Israeli airstrikes, suffered the most severe damage in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon, said Byrs.

The destruction of factories has left workers unemployed, she said, adding that there were reports of drug shortages, particularly to treat chronic diseases.

In the meantime, aid groups held their first general coordination meeting Sunday in Tyre, she said, adding that Monday's meeting focused on shelter, water and sanitation.

Byrs said more aid is coming in by sea and land. On Sunday, there were two Lebanese tankers unloading fuel in the ports of Beirut and Tripoli, while an Italian and a Turkish ship brought relief goods to Beirut. On Monday, the vessel Anamcara left Beirut for Limasol, Cyprus, she said.

Redden said two planes were landing in Beirut on Monday with supplies including seven huge warehouse tents that will be set up around Tyre to store relief goods before they are distributed.

UNHCR spokesman Redden said more than 140,000 of the 180,000 Lebanese who had sought refuge in Syria during the fighting had returned through official border crossings by Sunday.

With many others having gone back through other border crossing points, only 2,500 to 5,000 Lebanese are estimated to remain in Syria, Redden said.

''These are presumably all people who are quite vulnerable and can't go back immediately. So, we've got teams going to check on their condition and see what the problem is that is preventing them from returning,'' he said.

The World Food Program reports that it has delivered some 2,000 tons of food to more than 400,000 people since July 24, Byrs said.

The World Health Organization said it has mobilized more than 54 volunteers to assess public health facilities in southern Lebanon and the southern part of Beirut, she said."

"Workers Hope to Fix Lebanon Buildings" Associated Press via New York Times August 21, 2006

American and British-backed Israeli bombing campaigns in southern Beirut have made it much harder to get around.

Photo credit: Wael Hamzeh and European Pressphoto Agency via New York Times. With thanks.


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