GENEVA – Relief supplies poured into Lebanon on Thursday and aid workers were struggling to move the goods to the areas most affected by a month of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah militants, U.N. officials said.
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Jack Redden said the agency was still in the process of assessing the needs of people in the worst-hit areas. Getting to residents of rural areas where villages have been heavily damaged was proving slow and difficult, he said.
"Roads are damaged and they're also littered with unexploded munitions. So it's quite dangerous," Redden said.
The agency was getting heavier vehicles to better access rural areas, he said.
Some 86,000 people have returned from Syria to Lebanon since a cease-fire went into effect Monday, Redden said. About 5,000 came back on Thursday morning alone, and many more were expected to cross into Lebanon by the end of the day.
It was not immediately known how many returned to find their homes destroyed.
"We are pre-positioning tents in Tyre and Sidon to assist those whose houses no longer exist," Redden said.
Food and other relief items were passed out to 2,500 people living in villages along the U.N.-demarcated border between Lebanon and Israel, said Annick Bouvier of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Some water pumps were working again after aid workers brought fuel in, but pipe were destroyed and people still needed drinking water, she said.
"For us, it is an absolute priority to help repair the piping system and water plants," she said.
The U.N. refugee agency said planes carrying tents and plastic sheeting were arriving in Beirut from Jordan.
A French boat carrying medicines, ambulances and other items was due in Beirut later on Thursday and trucks carrying relief goods were also moving to southern Lebanon, said Christiane Berthiaume of the World Food Program.