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American frustration grows in Lebanon

The students at the American University in Beirut are all disappointed in the American Embassy here. They feel very ill-informed and say the embassy has not been in touch as much as they would have liked them to be. They are very frustrated that they have to pay for their own evacuation. They have had to find promissory notes saying that they are going to pay for the ferry to leave this country –- about $300-500. And that they will have to leave things behind and will only be allowed to take one carry-on. But mostly, they ask, why is it taking so long?

They have seen other embassies evacuating their people out of the country – the French, British, Germans – with a sense of urgency. We watched the French leave earlier today and could see the immediacy of how it was all carried out – names were just scrawled on suitcases in chalk.

They are also frustrated that they are finding out most of their information from the media. People are calling home and finding that their parents are giving them more information than the embassy. They are not even getting one e-mail a day from the embassy as developments are happening hour by hour. So, people here are wondering: If we have the best resources in the world, why is this taking so long?

Now, obviously, this is an unusual circumstance and I've seen crisis situations like this elsewhere, but I was surprised that they are not even getting one e-mail a day.

Americans who are living outside of Beirut are feeling very neglected. Americans who are here visiting family in southern Lebanon are feeling very cut-off and they don't know how they are going to get out. In Beirut, it's relatively easy to get people out at this point, you can still get in a car and drive around the city. But in south Lebanon – the situation is more precarious. 

Things have changed dramatically over the last week. There is a realization creeping in that this is going to last a long time and that this situation could take unexpected turns for the worse. 

Now there is a rush to get out. When we first got here there was a sense that this was a serious situation, but now there is a real sense of urgency. 

But the situation is different for the average Lebanese person. If they leave, where exactly are they going to go? If Syria, where do they stay? Or do you just hunker down and live through this? Many Lebanese are saying that we are back at war, and now we have to get through this as we have lived through other wars in the past.

The real fear here in Lebanon is that this situation is going to spill into some sort of civil conflict. There is a real fear that after all of this fighting, and all of the wars that the Lebanese people have already had to go through themselves, that this stress on society will re-ignite social conflict.