Middle East

Beirut Explosion: British Soldiers Assisting Lebanese Armed Forces

Personnel from 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment have been delivering equipment to set up emergency field kitchens in the capital city.

Three British soldiers have been helping the Lebanese armed forces in the aftermath of last week's huge explosion in Beirut.

Personnel from 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment have been delivering equipment to set up emergency field kitchens in the capital city.

They have also offered training for the Lebanese armed forces in how to respond to the disaster, which killed at least 171 people.

The troops arrived from Limassol in Cyprus several days ago on board HMS Enterprise.

The Royal Navy survey ship has been tasked with assessing the damage to port at the heart of the explosion.

It is also carrying tents, 450 cots and five field kitchens which can each feed 500 people.

“It looks like ground zero. There's buildings within the vicinity where the blast was, and the front of the building is completely gone," said Colour Sergeant Richard Joynes, 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment.

"All the glass is shattered, there’s debris everywhere, but since we’ve arrived the Lebanese have put a lot of effort into clearing a lot of debris," he added.

“The traffic is normal and it all looks like a calm situation considering what happened."

The Mercians have been assisting Lebanon’s armed forces, whose own facilities were damaged in the blast, but who now have a key role in Beirut's recovery.

The devastation from the blast in Beirut has seen Lebanon's armed forces benefit from British military support (Picture: The Mercian Regiment).

CSgt Joynes told Forces News: “What’s good to see so far is the Lebanese, directed by the LAF (Lebanese Armed Forces) have been moving a lot of that debris to bring a bit of normality into the city centre."

The British troops have "facilitated at least one kitchen" and passed on their expertise to Lebanese sailors, who can now "cascade that training further on across the LAF,” he added.

The team of three includes a chef and a craftsman.

Watch: A Royal Navy sailor talks through what equipment HMS Enterprise has brought to Beirut.

“For me it's been amazing because I got told I only had 20 minutes to pack and get on the Enterprise," said Corporal Aldo Daud, 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment.

“To actually come out here and be involved in this was amazing for a chef, especially for a chef," he added.

“We don’t get used as much anymore as the tours to Afghan and Iraq have been cancelled for us.

“It’s amazing. It’s a pleasure.”

The arrival of HMS Enterprise came as Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced he was stepping down in the wake of the explosion, a statement made moments after his entire cabinet resigned.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace authorised the deployment of Enterprise to the Lebanese capital last week.

British ambassador to Lebanon, Chris Rampling, said the Navy ship is part of a "very significant logistical package" in Beirut.

Corporal Aldo Daud helps the Lebanese to rebuild after the blast (Picture: The Mercian Regiment).

In addition to destroying the country’s main port, the explosion also damaged large parts of the capital, with nearly 300,000 people being left homeless in the immediate aftermath.

Authorities cordoned off the port itself, where the blast left a crater 200m (650ft) across and shredded a large grain silo, emptying its contents into the rubble.

Estimates suggested about 85% of the country’s grain was stored there and there are fears of imminent food shortages.

The Ministry of Defence said at the time of the explosion the British military would "continue to work with the Lebanese government to help the people of Beirut recover".

It is still not clear what caused the fire that triggered the explosion, which created a shock wave so powerful it was felt as far away as Cyprus more than 180 miles across the Mediterranean.

Cover image: The devastation left behind following an explosion at the port in Beirut (Picture: PA).