At least two Filipinos were killed, 8 others were injured, while one remained missing after two powerful explosions rocked Lebanon’s capital Beirut on Tuesday evening, August 4.
Lebanon’s health ministry said at least 73 died and 3,700 were hurt in the blast described by a witness as “like an atomic bomb.”
In an initial update on Wednesday morning, August 5, Philippine Foreign Assistant Secretary Ed Meñez said the two Filipinos who died and the first 6 recorded injuries "all were in their employers' homes during the explosion."
The Department of Foreign Affairs earlier said 11 Filipino seafarers were missing after the explosion, but announced late Wednesday evening that all 11 of them have been found.
Meñez said around 33,000 Filipinos live in Lebanon, 75% of whom reside in Greater Beirut.
The Philippines’ charge’ d’affaires in Lebanon, Ajeet-Victor Panemanglor, however told ABS-CBN News “it is likely that many others were hurt but we haven’t contacted them.”
The Philippine embassy requested Filipinos to contact them if they need assistance following the Lebanon blasts. The embassy provided the following Lebanon-based hotlines: 03859430, 70858086, 81334836, 71474416, and 70681060.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement that it has already reached out to the deceased Filipinos' next of kin, through the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs.
"The Department assures the public as well as all the other Filipinos in Beirut that it shall provide all the necessary assistance to the Filipino victims of this terrible tragedy. Likewise, the Department continues to coordinate with the Lebanese authorities in locating the reported missing Filipinos," it said.
“Prayers for the people of Beirut,” tweeted Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr in a tweet on Wednesday morning.
Hours before sending his condolences to the people of Lebanon, however, Locsin launched into speculation about the Lebanon blast. “No wait, it wasn't terrorism; it was breathtaking incompetence. Now we are all in danger,” Locsin claimed.
Malacañang also issued a statement expressing the Philippines' "solidarity with the people of Lebanon in this period of great grief."
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Lebanese people. We are one with the families and friends of Filipinos who passed or were injured during the event," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab vowed to exact accountability for the twin explosions. "Those responsible for this catastrophe will pay the price.”
Makrouhie Yerganian, a retired schoolteacher in her mid-70s, said she has not experienced anything like the Beirut explosions, even during the country’s 1975-1990 civil war. “It was like an atomic bomb,” she said.
Her 91-year-old uncle, who lived in the same building, was wounded in the blast and later died. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.