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U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell and other lawmakers are asking the federal government to immediately deploy humanitarian relief funds and support efforts to address the explosion in Beirut this week.

The Dearborn Democrat joined U.S. Reps. Darin LaHood, R-Illinois, Charlie Crist, D-Florida, Garret Graves, R-Louisiana, and and Donna Shalala, D-Florida, in leading 84 bipartisan members of Congress in making the request through a letter Friday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“We recognize that Lebanon was facing many difficult challenges before this tragedy occurred, including an economic crisis, heightened tensions with nonstate actors, political disputes, and the COVID-19 pandemic,” the lawmakers wrote. “We understand the Lebanese government has placed the Lebanese Armed Forces in charge of the blast site, and we support the need for stability and peace at this difficult time.”

On Tuesday, 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate blew up, obliterating Beirut’s main commercial hub and spreading death and wreckage for miles around.

The explosion of the ammonium nitrate, after apparently being set off by a fire, was the biggest explosion in Lebanon’s history. The known death toll reached 154, including bodies recovered from the rubble Friday; more than 5,000 people were wounded. Billions of dollars in damage was caused across the city, where many are too impoverished by Lebanon’s financial crisis to rebuild.

Dingell and her colleagues on Friday said the blast disrupted trade and depleted nearly 80% of Lebanon’s grain and wheat reserves. 

They asked Pompeo to consider U.S. Agency for International Development funding and other humanitarian assistance, the International Disaster Assistance Fund or other funds from the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance to help address the losses.

“While we assess how best the United States can be a partner in supporting humanitarian assistance to the people of Lebanon and continue our longstanding history of providing assistance in complicated environments, we affirm our support for a stable, independent, democratic, and sovereign Lebanon,” the lawmakers said.

They also noted the United States “has a strong presence in Lebanon, including in hospitals like the American University of Beirut Medical Center and the Lebanese American University Medical Center-Rizk Hospital, which are already working around the clock to treat those who were wounded by the blast. American universities in Lebanon have also suffered significant damage. We are confident that emergency assistance can be provided to the people of Lebanon while adhering to appropriate vetting standards, particularly by working through vetted and approved Non-Governmental Organizations.”

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