Turkey continues its efforts to support the Lebanese people after last week's blast at the Port of Beirut. Saida Turkish Hospital, which was built by Turkey nearly 10 years ago but did not begin its services due to some issues caused by the Lebanese government, is now scheduled to open upon the instructions of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Erdoğan appointed Dr. Serkan Topaloğlu from Turkey's Health and Food Policies Committee as a special envoy in order to start the process of opening the hospital for patients.
Topaloğlu evaluated the current situation of the hospital and the reasons it remained closed, in coordination with the Turkish Health Ministry, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) and the Turkish Embassy in Lebanon.
Lebanon's Prime Minister Hassan Diab received Topaloğlu and his team on Thursday. Diab thanked Erdoğan for extending help to his country following the blast.
Expressing his gratitude to Turkey for the appointment of a special envoy in order to open the Saida Turkish Hospital, the Lebanese premier said he will be closely watching the process and has given the necessary instructions to his country's Health Ministry.
According to Lebanon's Health Ministry, at least 177 people have died and over 6,000 were injured since the explosion on Aug. 4 ravaged parts of the Lebanese capital. The numbers, though, are likely to rise as efforts continue to find missing people.
Immediately after the blast, Turkey sent medical aid and rescue teams to the country.
Topaloğlu and his team also met with Lebanon's Health Minister Hamad Hassan in bilateral and inter-delegation meetings.
Topaloğlu extended his condolences to the Lebanese people over the loss of lives in the blast and said they want the Turkish hospital to open as soon as possible.
With some minor technical support, the hospital will be ready to admit patients, and Turkey will do whatever is necessary for this to happen, he said.
Technical details about the administration of the hospital will be finalized soon, and an action plan will be prepared, Topaloğlu added.
Hamad recalled that Turkey was "very quick" to send aid following the explosion, saying Lebanon really needs a hospital like this to open.
Topaloğlu along with his team and the Lebanese health minister and bureaucrats also visited Saida Turkish Hospital for inspection and spoke to the media about decisions taken to open the hospital.
Turkey stands by all Lebanese people without any discrimination, Topaloğlu said.
Saida Turkish Hospital will be a great help for Lebanon especially during the pandemic and following the Beirut blast, and its services will also be critical for trauma patients.
The Lebanese press also wrote extensively about the opening of the hospital.
Topaloğlu met with the family of a Turkish citizen who was critically injured in the blast.
As soon as his health condition allows, Topaloğlu said, the citizen will be sent to Turkey with an ambulance aircraft, and his treatment will continue in Turkey.
Last week, Vice President Fuat Oktay and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu visited the site of the explosion.
Oktay has said that Ankara was ready to send more medical assistance and food aid to help Lebanon in its hour of need.
Saying Turkey's hospitals and air ambulances would remain at Lebanon's service, he announced that officials have offered Turkish air ambulances to transport injured Lebanese citizens to Turkey for treatment.
Oktay also said Lebanon can use the Mersin International Port on the Mediterranean coast until the Beirut port is rebuilt.
"We have said goods could be transported with smaller ships and other means of transportation from Mersin to Lebanon," he added.
The tragedy came at a time when Lebanon has been experiencing its worst economic crisis, with a dramatic drop in the value of the Lebanese pound against the U.S. dollar.
The explosion of thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate stored at the port, apparently set off by a fire, was the biggest in Lebanon’s history and caused an estimated $10 billion-$15 billion in damages, according to Beirut’s governor. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people have been left homeless.
Documents that surfaced after the blast showed that for years officials had been repeatedly warned that the presence of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate at the port posed a grave danger to the public, yet no one acted to remove it.
International aid has been flowing into Lebanon for days, and several field hospitals have been set up around Beirut to help treat the wounded.