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Plane brings back Cypriots from traumatised Lebanon

A young boy runs into his grandfather's arms after he leaves Larnaca airport after landing from Lebanon early Friday (Christos Theodorides)

A plane returning with around 50 Cypriots who are permanent residents in Lebanon touched down at Larnaca airport late on Thursday evening.

The plane landed at Larnaca just before 10pm. On board were 51 passengers.

On disembarking they were taken to a special area in the terminal to be tested for Covid-19. They had to wait their turn, as passengers from four other prior flights were also being tested.  It was not until early Friday morning before they were free to leave the airport where relatives waited outside to greet them.

The same plane had departed Cyprus at 7pm with medical supplies for Lebanon, returning later with Cypriots whose businesses in Beirut were damaged by Tuesday’s massive blast.

Per current coronavirus protocols, Lebanon is categorised as a country C for Cyprus. People on the flight will be tested and then taken to a hotel for a 14-day quarantine if necessary.

Speaking to CyBC’s morning radio broadcast, Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides said that a second flight would be arranged if there were more Cypriots in Beirut wishing to return.

Commenting further later in the day, foreign ministry permanent secretary, Cornelios Corneliou, said Cyprus is also planning on sending a volunteer medical team as well.

“It is moving to see the interest shown by private entities, businesspeople and others to help the Lebanese people one way or another,” he said.

Of the damage to the building housing the Cypriot embassy and the ambassador’s residence, he said they were extensive.

Cyprus has so far dispatched two helicopters with rescue crews and dogs to Beirut.

Specifically, five firefighters and eight specially trained policemen with rescue dogs were sent to help look for survivors in the rubble of the blast.

Speaking to the CyBC evening news bulletin from Beirut, one of the Cypriot crew members spoke of “chaos” in the Lebanese capital.

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