Even before this week's devastating harbour blasts, few countries had fallen further from grace than Lebanon, and few cities had suffered more than Beirut. Once a chosen haunt of celebrities such as Brigitte Bardot, Peter O'Toole, and other members of the jet set, the country has since become a haven for Hezbollah.
It has been occupied by both Syria and Israel, sometimes at the same time, and has been riven by civil war, economic upheaval, the rise of armed gangs, violent religious sectarianism, and poor governance.
It was inevitable when news of the blasts, which have killed more than 100 people and injured at least 4000, first broke they would be linked to Hezbollah.
It has been suggested the 2750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate responsible for the two explosions had originally been intended for the terrorist group. The timing was also highly suspicious with four former Hezbollah operatives currently on trial before a United Nations-backed tribunal in The Hague. Their sentences are due to be handed down on Friday.
That said, it is still far too soon to determine whether the blasts were deliberate, or the result of mischance and incompetence. Questions are already being asked about the conditions under which the powerful explosive, the same as that used in the Oklahoma City bombing, were stored, and why it was left in the middle of a city of 2.2 million people for so long.
The disaster has overwhelmed local emergency services. Two of Beirut's largest hospitals were located in close proximity to ground zero. At the time of writing, thousands of people were still to receive effective treatment for their injuries. One Australian is known to be dead. The death toll is expected to rise in the days ahead as rescue workers move in and begin to recover bodies.
As with much of what has happened to them over the past four decades, the people of Beirut definitely don't deserve this.
The tragedy is, as with much of what has happened to them over the past four decades, the suffering of the people of Beirut. Everywhere they have gone, including in this country, members of the Lebanese diaspora have proven to be friendly, hard working, and generous. They have made a real contribution to the evolution and success of Australia's multicultural society.
Many thousands of Australian Lebanese families will be affected by this latest catastrophe. This is why the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is pulling out all the stops to obtain, and disseminate, as much information about the situation on the ground as possible. Those efforts are being hampered by the fragility of Lebanon's internal administration, the state of chaos that prevailed in Beirut in the hours after the blast, and the very real risk this may push the troubled nation of almost 8 million people over the edge and back into failed-state status. Matters haven't been helped by the fact the Australian embassy was within the blast radius and suffered substantial damage as well.
A tragedy of this magnitude would stretch the capacity of even the best of governments in normal times, let alone at the height of a global pandemic and in the middle of a major domestic economic crisis.
While Australia's ability to offer direct assistance is limited, we must do whatever we can. It will be particularly important to rapidly pass on information about Australians in Beirut who may have been injured or killed in the blast. This number could turn out to be high. Prior to the pandemic at least 20,000 Lebanese Australians were living in the country.
The one certainty is that the bad news coming out of Beirut in the wake of the blasts will continue for some time to come.