Aftermath of the 2020 Beirut explosions via Wikimedia / Freimut Bahlo

Czech rescue team forced to interrupt work in Beirut over security concerns

The Czech rescuers have been forced to suspend operations due to large demonstrations in the Lebanese capital

Beirut/Prague, Aug 9 (CTK) – Czech rescuers in Beirut resumed operation on Sunday at the site of Tuesday’s devastating explosion and started examining to what extent local people’s houses have been damaged, but after a few hours they had to interrupt the work over worsened security, firefighters tweeted.

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On Saturday, the Czechs interrupted their rescue operation after the Lebanese military asked all intervening teams to return to their bases over a worsened security situation. Later on Saturday, a large demonstration took place in Beirut, with the protesters attacking the seats of ministries.

The blast of about 2,750 tonnes of Ammonium nitrate, which was unsafely stored in the port, killed 158 at least and injured about 6,000. It also demolished the concrete grain silo that Czechoslovak company Prumstav built in the port 50 years ago, and devastated whole quarters of Beirut.

A Czech rescue team of about 40 people, including firefighters, dog handlers, a construction engineer and a doctor, which specializes in detecting and saving people from ruins, arrived at the scene of the tragedy on Wednesday evening.

On Sunday, five members of the team, including the construction engineer, set out to check the technical state of the houses in the afflicted area with the aim to help locals safely return to their homes, Prague firefighters’ spokesman Martin Kavka said.

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Rescue works also continued around the silo, where a Russian, a French and a Turkish team are operating, he said.

However, during the course of the day, the Czechs were once again told to withdraw to their base for security reasons. Further mass demonstrations are set to take place in the city.

The Czech firefighters today said that the rescue team will return from Beirut on Tuesday, August 11. On return, its members will go to quarantine and be tested for COVID-19. They are scheduled to arrive aboard an army airbus around 14:00 CEST. Their equipment is to be brought back home by a Czech military CASA plane in the following hours.

On Wednesday, the rescuers flew to Beirut by plane from the Smartwings private air carrier, which met with criticism.

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