Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Lebanon’s Displaced Find Refuge in Beirut’s Public Schools | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – Colonel Chidiac, head of the fire department, which is responsible for coordinating and dispatching emergency units across the Lebanese capital, told Asharq Al-Awsat that, “There are about 5000 displaced people, but the number is increasing everyday. We are distributing water, medical supplies and blankets”.

With Israeli attacks continuing across Lebanon and sea, air and land blockade in place, many Lebanese have fled from Beirut’s southern suburbs, seeking shelter in public schools across Beirut.

Gaby Khalil, a member of the higher relief committee, set up by the Cabinet, added, “Things are complicated. We are concerned about the number of people.” Already, many schools have been overwhelmed as families set up temporary homes in classrooms. Many others are sleeping out in the open.

“There are adult refugees, of course, but also many babies less than 6 months old, which means they need milk and diapers,” Khalil added.

An eight-month pregnant woman sat on a plastic chair in front of a school building on Sunday. “I got here this morning. Only God knows how long we’ll be here for. I am scared about my baby,” she said, her arms cradling her unborn child.

Another recent arrival, Mariam Hoss, said, “It has been raining bombs over my house.

She spent a night out in the streets before joining up with the rest of her family. Now, all 34 members are reunited.

As many as 17 to 22 people were sheltering in once classroom, many with little or no personal belongings.

Hassan Kawar, a former restaurant employee, said, “No, we don’t have anything with us.”

Resting on a blanket strewn on the floor, 71 year-old Hussein Awada said the current attacks on Lebanon were very different from the civil war. “The difference is that bombs now are more dangerous because of advances in technology. After seeing a bridge destroyed close to my house, I don’t even feel safe in this shelter.”

Visibly upset, he asked, “We went through a lot [during the war], why do we have to go through this again?”

When asked what provisions, if any, he had with him, Awada said, “We brought food but don’t have money. I don’t know what we’ll do.”

Reflecting on the week’s violence, he laid the blames on both sides of the conflict.

When the fire brigade sirens sound again, firefighters, who had been distributing mattresses, return to their vehicles to continue their journey.

“Usually, we work for 24 hours and rest for two days but now we are working for 48 hours and sleeping for 24 hours,” said Ali, a firefighter, as he climbed unto his vehicle. “I just keep on going on. We rest when we can.”

The emergency relief effort is being carried out by several agencies, in conjunction with the Fire Department, including the Red Cross, Red Crescent, the Civil Defense and other volunteer organizations.