Video: Money pledged for rebuilding Lebanon

By Martin Savidge Correspondent
NBC News
updated 8/16/2006 7:32:12 PM ET 2006-08-16T23:32:12

The Hussein family spent Wednesday digging through what's left of their four-bedroom Beirut apartment. Israeli airstrikes destroyed what Ali Hussein says was a palace.

"The kids told me, 'Daddy, don't be sad. Don't be angry. We can replace it,'" he says.

In the southern suburbs of Beirut alone, it is estimated that there are 300 buildings that have been destroyed, most of them high-rises that are now just rubble, block after block, street after street.

No part of Lebanon was spared.

Wednesday they began filling the bomb craters at the Beirut airport, but hundreds of miles of roadways are unusable. Eighty to 90 percent of the bridges south of Beirut are impassible. And up to 30 percent of the infrastructure in South Lebanon was wiped out.

The initial damage estimate: $3.5 billion.

"I've never seen a war like this," says Al-Fadl Chalak, president of Lebanon's Council of Development and Reconstruction, "the intensity of the fire power, the intensity of destruction."

Borrowing to rebuild isn't easy. Lebanon was already $40 billion in debt from reconstruction after its 15-year civil war.

"The International Monetary Fund, the world banking system [and] major countries are going to have to come together and help Lebanon figure out a way of meeting its financial burdens in recovering from this war," says Howard Rosen, an economist at the Institute for International Economics.

If Lebanon was hoping for some sort of Marshall Plan, no one here has heard of it.

Another problem? One of the country's biggest sources of income, tourism, is in shell shock as once-crowded beaches and restaurants sit empty.

And while the Lebanese government struggles, Hezbollah acts.

Speaking on TV, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah promised the tens of thousands of people made homeless that he will pay their rent for one year, rebuild their apartments, even furnish them.

Ali Hussein says he plans to sign up, ignoring that it was Hezbollah which triggered the war that destroyed his home in the first place.

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