The huge explosion that rocked Beirut Port on Tuesday evening (4 August) resulted in several UNIFIL naval peacekeepers from Bangladesh being injured, some of them seriously. The ship was docked at the Port as part of the UNIFIL Maritime Task Force. UNIFIL is currently assessing the situation, including the scale of the impact on the vessel and its personnel.
UNIFIL Spokesperson Andrea Tenenti said that “because of the huge blast, the Port of Beirut and not only the Port was completely destroyed, damaged, as well as a part of the city of Beirut.”
“One of our six ships was damaged and several peacekeepers from Bangladesh who were in the ship serving with the Maritime Task Force were injured, one of them seriously injured," he added. "They were transported to the nearest hospitals in Lebanon.”
“UNIFIL Force Commander has been emphasizing on the importance of being close to the Lebanese people, and to the Lebanese government.”
“We are ready to assist and provide any kind of assistance to the Lebanese people, to the Lebanese government during these difficult times,” he concluded.Courageous UN peacekeepers
Captain M. Joinal Abedin of the Maritime Task Force recounted the moment of the blast. He recalled that during the explosion, he thought that it was going to be the last day of his life and that he would not survive.
“Well, it was a normal workday for us. Everybody was doing their job and people were roaming around performing their duties as usual and all of a sudden we see a small fire. A small fire doesn’t’ mean there will be a devastation,” he explained.
“Two minutes later, the fire came closer and to another shed. We still thought it was normal and all of a sudden, there was a huge explosion which took off, and within seconds, the explosion happened. I don’t know how the explosion was in Hiroshima, but this felt similar to that.”
UNIFIL transported the injured peacekeepers to the nearest hospitals for medical treatment. Many of them were in a state of shock. When asked about his experience and some of the challenges he faced with his troops, Captain M. Joinal stated that “23 of our peacekeepers were admitted at the hospital. I suffered minor injuries, but I was able to be with them by their side at all times, supporting them and boosting their morale in such a difficult time.”
Standing with the Lebanese people
UNIFIL’s Bangladeshi peacekeepers’ morale remains high despite their experience. Captain Joinal feels inspired by the strength and commitment his peacekeepers have shown.“I feel extremely proud of the courage and resilience they have shown during this critical time. We will overcome this together so we can continue to serve and honour our mandate in the name of peace and with the Lebanese people,” he stated.
While leading evening prayers aboard UNIFIL’s Maritime Task Force corvette “BNS Bijoy” at Beirut Port, a day after the explosion, Captain Abedin felt grateful for being given a second chance at life as well as the way UNIFIL responded towards their contingent during such a devastating incident.“The support of UNIFIL has been invaluable in terms of crisis response, transportation, evacuation, medical treatment and most importantly, moral support,” he added.
UNIFIL is working closely with the Lebanese authorities and other stakeholders and stands ready to support the ongoing response in the aftermath of the massive explosions, which destroyed large swathes of the capital and has resulted in multiple casualties.