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Last Updated: Friday, 11 August 2006, 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK
Diary: Getting aid to Lebanon
Astrid Van Genderen Stort by a Jordanian plane
Astrid Van Genderen Stort is in Beirut for the UN's refugee agency
Aid agencies say they are frustrated by the difficulties of delivering humanitarian relief to southern Lebanon amid the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.

From Beirut, Astrid Van Genderen Stort, spokeswoman for the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR, describes the logistics operation involved over the past week.

The agency has been seeking to bring much-needed supplies to Beirut by air from Jordan and by road from Syria.

Further relief items are being flown from Europe and Jordan to Cyprus, to be shipped to Beirut.

Saturday 5 August: The UNHCR is struggling to get in goods from Amman via military Jordanian C-130s to Beirut airport.

Trailers are loaded with UNHCR supplies in Damascus (picture Anna Branthwaite for UNHCR)
Workers at the UNHCR's Damascus base loaded trailers with supplies

Since the bombing of the three bridges along the main northern route from Beirut yesterday, we have strongly negotiated for a slot on these humanitarian flights.

We were told that we would have two slots for Monday - latest Tuesday morning - one planeload with 9,000 blankets and World Health Organization medication, and one planeload with 3,600 mattresses.

Monday 7 August: No slot confirmed for the flights.

Tuesday 8 August: A convoy arrived in Beirut in the evening. It was the first to arrive since the bombing of the bridges. UNHCR Syria had had trailers waiting since Sunday morning to make the journey.

Still no slot confirmed for the flights.

Wednesday 9 August: Still waiting for a slot for the flights.

We were getting very frustrated in Beirut as our warehouse was getting emptier and emptier. The truck-load which came in on Tuesday helped, but more goods were needed to beef up stocks.

At 2100 local time we finally heard that one plane was arriving the next morning at 0810 local time, from Amman. We raced to get everything organised.

Thursday 10 August: We were at the airport at 0800. The plane landed at 0810 exactly and was off-loaded in less than an hour.

From Cyprus - 45 tonnes flown from UNHCR global supplies in Copenhagen. Includes 20,000 blankets, 7,000 jerry cans, 1,440 kitchen sets and 50 plastic rolls
Also from Cyprus - 70 tonnes of tents, mattresses, jerry cans, cooking stoves and hurricane lanterns, flown from Amman
From Marseille - Five trucks to be used for delivering supplies. Also 30,000 blankets, 15,000 jerry cans, 3,000 kitchen sets and 100 plastic rolls
Source: UNHCR

But the second plane - which was scheduled for 1410 local time - approached the airport in Beirut and then, while it was circling over the airport, it was told to leave again, for security reasons.

Meanwhile, trailers were being loaded at the UNHCR's Damascus warehouse in Syria.

They were supposed to be sent up to the Syrian-Lebanese border this afternoon, where the goods would be transferred on to some six-eight joint UN trucks, a cross-border operation.

No clearance has so far been received from the Israeli side, to allow these goods to cross into Lebanon. As a result, the trailers were kept at the warehouse in Damascus all afternoon.

Supplies are carried to the Syria-Lebanon border (picture Anna Branthwaite for UNHCR)
At the border, supplies should be transferred to UN trucks for Beirut

A flight was scheduled to leave Copenhagen tonight for Larnaca in Cyprus carrying 45 tonnes of supplies.

Two more flights were expected to arrive in Larnaca from Amman, each loaded with 35 tonnes of tents, mattresses, jerry cans, cooking stoves and hurricane lanterns. Another flight from Jordan is planned for Monday.

The supplies will be transferred to UN logistics ships, bound for Beirut on Sunday.

Friday 11 August: Bombing in Beirut was fierce overnight . The second plane from Amman arrived at 0900, but it took us several hours to get the cargo, as there were misunderstandings about the off-loading. The Lebanese army was also on the side. In the end the misunderstanding was cleared up and we got the 3,600 mattresses to the warehouse.

Supplies flown from Amman arrive in Beirut (picture by Jenny Matthews of Panos Agency for UNHCR, 10 August 2006)
Jordanian military planes have ferried supplies to Beirut airport

Also at about 0900, the trailers were sent up to the Syrian-Lebanese border, where they should have arrived. The trailers will be off-loaded there today and the goods will "overnight" at the border.

If clearance is received for Saturday, UN trucks will come up from Beirut in the morning and cross-border transfer will take place then.

UNHCR staff will be there from Damascus and supervise the transfer and deal with the border formalities.

If all goes well and the transfer is smooth, the goods should arrive in Beirut on Saturday afternoon, where in principle they should be off-loaded in the UNHCR harbour warehouse.

A French ship is due to leave the port of Marseille for Beirut, carrying five trucks to be used by UNHCR to deliver supplies in Lebanon. It will also bring blankets, jerry cans, plastic rolls and kitchen sets.

Astrid Van Genderen Stort will file a second instalment in the coming days.

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