Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB Breakfast
Ben Fordham: Marise Payne has called in, the Foreign Affairs Minister. Marise Payne, good morning to you.
Marise Payne: Good morning Ben.
Ben Fordham: Mass devastation in Lebanon.
Marise Payne: This is a devastating explosion – absolutely shocking – and your description and what we are seeing on our televisions and online at the moment is just very, very confronting.
Ben Fordham: I’m reading here, the United States Geological Survey shows that this was so big it created seismic waves, equivalent of a magnitude 3.3 earthquake and we’ve already had it confirmed by the Prime Minister this morning, at least one Australian has been killed.
Marise Payne: Tragically, we have lost one Australian. We are not going into the details of that at the moment, while we work with family and consular authorities to support them. And we are very, very sorry about that and convey our sympathy to the family and friends of that Australian. But as you say, Ben, the size of this event, the size of the explosion, and its impact, is going to have caused a very significant number of fatalities. So we will work closely with local authorities to establish the extent of the impact on Australians. You’ve referred to, and I know the Prime Minister has said this morning, we think there are usually around 20,000 Australians, including dual nationals in Lebanon, at any one time. That figure may have been impacted by movements related to COVID-19, but it’s still a very considerable figure and our team has been working very hard to support them.
Ben Fordham: The US Embassy in Beirut is saying to anyone there, stay indoors and wear masks because they're worried about toxic gases. We've also heard reports that the Australian embassy has been impacted.
Marise Payne: The Australian embassy has been considerably impacted. We had, I am advised by the Ambassador, about 95 per cent of our windows blown out by the impact. A number of staff have received glass injuries. They are being supported and looked after. Thankfully none of those injuries is very serious. But, of course, it's a shocking and terrifying incident to be dealing with and I really send our thoughts to our teams who are on the ground in Beirut, including Ambassador Rebekah Grindlay.
Ben Fordham: We'll let you get back to it. Thank you so much for calling in.
Marise Payne: Thanks very much Ben.
Ben Fordham: Our Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne. So there is considerable damage to the Australian embassy in Beirut. At least one Australian has been killed.