By Lina Saigol
Bank of America has become the latest bank to pledge support for the emergency response to the massive warehouse explosion at the port of Beirut in Lebanon, which killed at least 158 people and injured more than 6000 others.
In an internal memo sent to employees on Aug. 7, Bernie Mensah, BofA’s /zigman2/quotes/200894270/composite BAC -1.24% head of international business, said the U.S. bank would donate $300,000 to help the relief efforts, $150,000 of which would be donated to the Lebanese Red Cross, which is treating thousands of injured people and supporting search efforts to find survivors.
A remaining $150,000 will be donated at a later date to help with Lebanon’s long-term recovery plans,” Mensah said in the memo.
Last week, Citigroup /zigman2/quotes/207741460/composite C -1.26% said it would donate $100,000 to support the emergency response, while U.S. rival Goldman Sachs /zigman2/quotes/209237603/composite GS -2.19% pledged to match employee donations.
On Sunday, international donors pledged €253 million ($298 million) in aid for Lebanon, in an emergency online donor summit led by French President Emmanuel Macron.
The International Monetary Fund said it was willing to “redouble” its efforts to help Lebanon following the deadly blast, but said it needed all institutions to come together to carry out “much needed” reforms.
On Sunday, tens of thousands of protesters gathered in central Beirut demanding justice for the explosion, which they blame on years of poor governance and corruption.
In a tweet on Saturday, the U.S. Embassy in Beirut said it supported the demonstrators’ right to peaceful protest and urged all involved to refrain from violence.
Lebanon was already reeling from an economic and financial crisis before the Aug. 4 explosion of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, an industrial chemical commonly used in fertilizers, which had been stored for six years at the port without safety measures. The blast sent seismic shock waves across Beirut, causing widespread damage as far as the outskirts of the capital, and leaving more than 300,000 people without homes fit to live in.
The Beirut Stock Exchange reopened on Monday, with shares in Solidere LB:SOLA +0.11% — the Lebanese real-estate company that helped rebuild much of Beirut’s center following the end of the 15-year civil war — closing up almost 0.5% at $14.28.
Lebanon’s public debt-to-gross-domestic-product ratios of 150% is one of the highest in the world. The Lebanese pound, which has been pegged to the dollar since 1997, has plunged more than 80% since the start of the year, while inflation soared to 90% in June from a year earlier.
Meanwhile, Western Union /zigman2/quotes/206269665/composite WU +2.95% , the world’s largest money transfer firm, said that it would be offering zero-fee international money transfers paid out in U.S. dollars to Lebanon, as the country grapples with its recent tragedy amid other economic and coronavirus pandemic-related threats.
“We know there are tens of millions of Lebanese families and loved ones working or living across the world — and they send money regularly to pay for a variety of needs,” said Jean Claude Farah, President, Global Networks at Western Union.