A SMALL Scottish charity has deployed a team of Syrian refugees to Beirut to carry out emergency repairs in the capital of Lebanon.

Edinburgh Direct Aid (EDA) has sent a team of carpenters and other construction workers to aid efforts to restore the city which was torn apart by an explosion at the port on August 4.

For more than six years, (EDA) has been helping 50,000 Syrian refugees in Arsal, a small Lebanese town high above the Bekaa valley, near the Syrian border. Now, EDA has brought a team of Syrian refugees from Arsal to Beirut to carry out emergency repairs led by EDA international aid director Maggie Tookey.

Tookey said: “Beirut is complete chaos. It feels to have lost all its spirit but the strength of the continuing protests doesn’t seem to believe that. Maybe it’s the depth of anger that everyone seems to hold, apparent in everyone I speak to about how the explosion and the economic collapse came to pass.

“The city seems to have no guidance and no authority to control anything. It’s almost lawless despite the state of emergency and the presence of the Lebanese army on the streets.

“Traffic congestion is the worst I’ve ever known. It takes me almost two hours to get to our work site near the port – a distance of six kilometres. I’ve now measured it. The army closes roads at random. Inside the city, thousands of volunteers are sweeping up glass and masonry and endless streams of small trucks come to take it away, choking up the narrow streets even more. Much of it gets left – swept into big piles in any corner behind houses and kiosks, probably destined to remain there for months/years.

“The port area which I pass every day is a sort of Ground Zero. Nothing is recognisable in the blast area. A desert of twisted metal overlooked by huge and ruined silo towers, still standing but spilling out their contents to form a grain mountain.

“The team is drawn from graduates of construction courses at EDA’s vocational training centre in Arsal, which are run in partnership with the German “Green Helmets” organisation. EDA and Green Helmets are working together in Karantina, a poor residential area of Beirut near the port. Many living in this area have lost not only friends and family, but also their jobs at the port, and have suffered heavy damage to their houses.”

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Many non-government organisations (NGOs) in Beirut are providing food and medical supplies, or carrying out damage assessment. The EDA-Green Helmets team is one of very few teams that are working to shore up and repair houses from the damage caused.

Tookey continued: “The team brought with them woodworking and other machinery from Arsal, now set up in a marquee on some nearby waste ground, and are using specialised skills to make and replace doors and windows and their frames as needed, and to carry out other repairs to ensure the traumatised local people have shelter.

“The team are making window frames and door frames on site in the makeshift workshop and every night, two of the team take turns in sleeping there to guard the valuable, rented machinery. We have a target of 200 windows but of course the need is endless. We will see how the project plays out in terms of funding. Right now it’s hot, hard, noisy work but the residents are delighted to get our help.

“Meanwhile in Beirut the protests continue; sometimes the army fires off their guns to clear the streets which causes alarm.”

Edinburgh Direct Aid’s initial target is to repair 100 apartments at a cost of around $10,000. With more cash they could do much more, to help out not only with repairs in Beirut, but also in mitigation of the terrible effects of the hyper-inflation and lockdown in Arsal.

To help pay for this crucial work which is being carried out by the team of Syrian refugees trained by Edinburgh Direct Aid, donations can be made. To do so, visit: www.edinburghdirectaid.org