BEIRUT BLOG: No One Knows The Body Count

Special Report -  Jonathan Erasmus

Lebanon Devastation
Residents in Srifa, near the South Lebanon city of Tyre, began burying their dead today having only yesterday started pulling the bodies from under rubble that now swamps the town.

The first arriving aid agencies believe Srifa to have been the ‘worst hit’ town
in Lebanon in terms of damage caused by Israeli bombs, estimating some 70 per cent
of the buildings here having been destroyed.

The death toll presently stands at 45 but it is expected to rise in the next
couple of days especially after the discovery today that 27 people where killed
in one of the obliterated houses.

Most of the bodies found so far have been buried in the debris from the blasted
buildings, but residents also returned to find bodies, many dismembered,
scattered through the streets.

For some it was simply too much as they broke down in tears when  they witnessed the
unprecedented extent of the devastation first hand.

A local lady named Mahal Said stood in the remains of her home holding up
pictures of two men. She told me they were her sons both of whom had been killed
by the bombs. She said: “They’ve taken my sons, they’ve taken them from me
forever. My family has been broken by these bombs.”

Local teacher and father of three, Ahmed Jabet returned from refuge in Sidon
today to find his family home had been flattened.

He said: “Everything here is ruined. I have nothing now but what you see. They
have crushed my home and my brothers’ homes. Israel has killed our people and
destroyed our town.”

“I never imagined it could be this bad. Just look what they have done”, he
continued, pointing at the seemingly endless mass of wreckage surrounding him.

Operations Director of German aid agency Humedica, Hans Musswessels said: “The
situation here is one of the most critical we have seen in the country. The
returning people need our help immediately. They have no food, no water, no
shelter and no medical aid.”

He added: “In terms of the damage caused by the Israeli bombs, this is most
probably the worst hit town in Lebanon.”

One of the major problems facing the aid workers here will not just be
distributing aid effectively but also ensuring the safety of the residents and
workers due to the hundreds of unexploded bombs believed to be in the region.

One 200lbs bomb was dug up this afternoon having not exploded next to a house in
the town centre, but the major fear is the more difficult to recognise
hand-sized cluster bombs that, according to one mine disposal expert in Srifa,
“are capable of destroying anything within a 100 metre range”.

A funeral precession compromised of local soldiers, men, women and children
passed through what remains of the town, mostly silent but for the cries of the
mothers who have lost there husbands and sons here.

With the bombing over for the time being Lebanon now faces perhaps the largest
humanitarian crisis in its history and the people in Srifa it seems, are
suffering the worst.