MANILA, Philippines — Two Filipina household service workers were killed, eight others were injured while two Filipinos were reported missing after a massive explosion hit Beirut, Lebanon on Tuesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.
Citing a report of the Philippine embassy in Beirut, DFA spokesman Assistant Secretary Eduardo Meñez yesterday said the two Filipino household service workers who died were in their employers’ houses during the explosion that occurred at the Port of Beirut.
DFA Undersecretary for migrant workers affairs Sarah Lou Arriola said the remains of the two Filipino casualties would soon be repatriated.
“The remains will be repatriated. We will bring them home. It’s up to the family if they want the OFW (overseas Filipino worker) to be cremated,” Arriola said at a press conference.
Reports from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Lebanon identified the Filipino fatalities as Pearl Mendoza and a certain Bularon.
The POLO reported that those injured are being treated in the hospital, including one in critical but stable condition.
Arriola said 11 seafarers were earlier reported missing.
“Twelve missing including 11 seafarers whose ship was docked 400 meters from the shore and there was shockwave. They are missing because tumalon sa barko kasi akala lulubog (they abandoned ship because they thought it would sink),” Arriola said.
The DFA later received a report from the Philippine embassy that 10 of the 11 missing seafarers have been found and are now safe and accounted for.
The embassy said the 10 suffered minor injuries and are now with the management of the shipping firm Abu Merhi Cruises at Ain el Mraiseh, Beirut. The company operates Orient Queen Cruises.
“This development leaves one seafarer still missing,” the embassy said.
Arriola said a Filipina household worker is also missing.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said that six of the injured OFWs were identified as Marcela Balwis, Sarah Jane Daraca, Urusula Villa, Imelda Sacular, Jomar Lagente and Graciano Norma. The identities of the two other injured OFWs have yet to be determined.
The DOLE yesterday assured the relatives of OFWs killed and injured in the Beirut blast of appropriate assistance.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the government is already reaching out to the families of the deceased OFWs and is also working on the repatriation of the remains.
“Aside from bereavement benefits of P120,000 the fatalities may receive $15,000 insurance and OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) will shoulder their repatriation cost,” Bello said.
“The DFA through the embassy is now in touch with authorities to locate and ensure the safety of missing Filipinos,” he said.
The missing domestic helper, Arriola said, was reportedly injured “but could not be reached through her phone.”
“As of now everything is very fluid. Massive ang explosion,” she added.
Malacañang condoled with the families of people who died during the blast in Lebanon and ordered the DFA to help Filipinos affected by the incident.
“The Philippines is in solidarity with the people of Lebanon in this period of great grief. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Lebanese people. We are one with the families and friends of Filipinos who passed or were injured during the event,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement.
“Lebanon, as we know, is war-torn. We’ve issued a series of advisories against working in Lebanon. I believe the DFA will intensify our efforts to bring home our countrymen in that war-torn area,” Roque told CNN Philippines.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the Philippine embassy in Beirut is ensuring the safety of OFWs.
“We are sympathizing with our fellow countrymen who lost their loved ones… The government will assist them and those who were injured,” Secretary to the Cabinet Karlo Nograles said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay yesterday.
Nograles said he is leaving it to the DFA and concerned agencies to take the lead in assisting the aggrieved families.
Arriola said all the eight injured household workers were in their places of work during the explosion.
A Filipina household worker at the residence of Lebanese actress Haifa Wehbe was among those injured.
Wehbe, whose house is located near port and was damaged, said the Filipina maid was admitted to hospital for injuries.
“Our embassy is 20 minutes by car from the port. They also felt the shockwave, it really shook,” Arriola said.
In a report to the DFA, the embassy said a powerful explosion occurred in the Port of Beirut on Tuesday evening, resulting in several fatalities and dozens injured, as well as causing widespread damage throughout the city.
Lebanese authorities are still investigating the cause of the explosion.
The DFA said the embassy is in touch with the Filipino community in Lebanon to assess the situation and provide assistance to affected Filipinos.
According to the DFA, there are around 33,424 OFWs and an estimated 11,972 Filipino irregular migrants in Lebanon.
Arriola said 31,916 Filipino workers in Lebanon are mostly domestic workers.
The DFA said around 2,400 Filipinos in Lebanon were repatriated from December 2019 to March 2020. — Christina Mendez, Mayen Jaymalin, Alexis Romero