Beirut Hospital: Oil Still Out of Reach

Aug 2, 2006 3:29pm

As the American University Hospital in Beirut uses the last of its oil, the best chance for more sits on an oil tanker called the Afrodite waiting off the Lebanese coast halted by an Israeli blockade.  As ABC News previously reported, Israeli forces are worried the fuel could be used by Hezbollah in the conflict with Israel. ABC News has since learned that at one point the Afrodite received the green light from the U.N. to deliver its supply, but the ship’s captain was not convinced.  "The captain wants assurances from the Israeli Defense Forces that he’ll be given safe passage," acting University President George Tomey told ABC News.

Tomey says the hospital received some fuel today from the country’s reserve supply, but only enough for one day’s consumption.  The University has started to economize its energy use by shutting off the central air conditioning system on campus and raising the hospital’s thermostat. 

But the hospital is not the only one facing an energy crisis.  The Daily Star, Lebanon’s English language newspaper, reported Monday that according to oil importer Bahij Abu Hamzeh, the country has "enough [fuel] stock to last 10 days, after which if no imports of fuel are allowed there will be a disaster. Some gas stations have already posted handwritten signs that read, ‘Out of gas, sorry,’ and ‘No gas today, try Monday.’"

At times during the Lebanese Civil War that lasted from 1975 to 1990, Israeli forces kept the hospital supplied with the oil needed to operate smoothly. It’s the kind of cooperative humanitarian effort that doctors and university administrators are hoping will take place.

David Siegel, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy, said in a statement to ABC News, "We attach great importance to humanitarian aid and urge all aid to be directed through the organized humanitarian mechanisms already in place through international organizations and the U.N."

If the hospital’s oil supply continues to dwindle, operations at Beirut’s American University Hospital will most likely be shut down. "I have never closed the hospital through all the years of Civil War," acting President Tomey told ABC News. "We have never witnessed a situation like this."   

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