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Beirut explosion: Trump to discuss aid response with Lebanese, world leaders

"Everyone wants to help!" President Trump tweeted, as global powers rally funds and aid for Lebanon.
Image: President Donald Trump speaks at Whirlpool Corporation washing machine factory in Clyde, Ohio
President Donald Trump speaks at a Whirlpool Corporation washing machine factory in Clyde, Ohio on Thursday.Joshua Roberts / Reuters

President Donald Trump will join world leaders, including senior figures from Lebanon, as the United States takes part in a global aid effort to help the survivors of a deadly blast that rocked the Lebanese capital, Beirut, on Tuesday.

Trump will join a conference call on Sunday, led by France and the United Nations, to rally aid and funds in the aftermath of the colossal explosion, which killed more than 150 people and injured at least 5,000, many of whom are now homeless.

"We will be having a conference call on Sunday with President Macron, leaders of Lebanon, and leaders from various other parts of the world. Everyone wants to help!" Trump tweeted Friday.

Later on Friday, at a news conference at his golf club in New Jersey, Trump called the massive explosion a "horrible event" and said that he had spoken to Lebanese President Michel Aoun, informing him that three U.S. aircraft were en route to the Middle Eastern country to deliver supplies and personnel.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also said on Friday that the U.S. had pledged more than $17 million in disaster aid for Lebanon.

The massive explosion in the Lebanese capital's seaport on Tuesday has left at least 250,000 people homeless, according to the U.N., and wrecked large swathes of the city, as volunteers are still working to retrieve bodies from under the rubble and overwhelming clean-up efforts get underway.

Many residents see the disaster as symptomatic of the general state of upheaval into which the country has slid, in recent months.

Some turned to President Macron — Lebanon was a former French colonial protectorate — in the blast aftermath. He was mobbed by distraught crowds on Thursday when he visited Beirut.

Macron called for an international inquiry into the explosion and told citizens, still reeling from the blast, that no blank checks would be given to Lebanese leaders unless they enacted reforms and ended rife corruption.

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The exact cause of the blast is still being investigated.

The Lebanese prime minister has said 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, which is used in making fertilizers and bombs, had been stored for six years without safety measures at a port warehouse.

President Aoun said on Friday that an investigation would examine whether the trigger was caused by a bomb or other external interference.

"The cause has not been determined yet. There is a possibility of external interference through a rocket or bomb or other act," Aoun told Lebanese media.

He also said the investigation would weigh if the blast was due to negligence or an accident.

Earlier this week, President Trump said the explosion looked "like a terrible attack," although he offered no evidence to substantiate his comments and later said that the conclusion was based on the presumptions of U.S. generals.

So far nineteen people, among them port officials, have been detained by Lebanese authorities in relation to the blast.

People evacuate the wounded after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday.Hassan Ammar / AP

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Saturday that he would seek to mobilize Arab efforts to provide support to Lebanon, while Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay said his country was ready to help rebuild the port, during a visit to Beirut on Saturday.

The disaster struck as Lebanon is in the midst of a spiraling economic crisis.

Officials have said the blast could cause losses amounting to billions of dollars, a bill Lebanon would struggle to pay.

The blast also destroyed Lebanon's only major grain storage silo, as U.N. agencies said they would help provide emergency food supplies to a country that also hosts millions of refugees from neighboring states.

As Beirut mourns its dead, grief gave way to fury on Thursday evening when protests broke out around Parliament. Further protests are planned for Saturday afternoon, by those angry at the government's response to the disaster.

On Saturday, the Dutch Foreign Ministry also said the wife of the Dutch ambassador to Lebanon had died after being seriously injured in the explosion. While earlier in the week, the German foreign office also confirmed that a German embassy staff member had died following the blast.

Reuters contributed to this report.