The European Union announced 10 million euros (8.6 million pounds) in aid on Thursday to help Lebanese fleeing fighting in their country and expressed grave concern over the humanitarian situation in the region.

The Commission will in this very initial phase commit 10 million euros for the most urgent needs, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in Pori, Finland, where he was attending a seminar.

The bloc's aid commissioner, Louis Michel, stressed the gravity of the humanitarian situation and called for the opening of safe routes to get the aid to displaced people.

If the fighting does not stop immediately, there will be difficulty in providing humanitarian aid and the humanitarian situation will become a disaster, Michel said in a statement read in Brussels by his spokesman, Amadeu Altafaj.

We are facing a serious humanitarian crisis, about half a million internally displaced persons, but it could rapidly increase to 1 million if the fighting continues. The needs are big, Altafaj said.

Once formally approved the aid can arrive in 48 or 72 hours, and will be given to United Nations and non-governmental organisations. It could be increased if necessary, Altafaj told a news conference.

Barroso said the aid was given to express EU solidarity with the civilians who are suffering from this terrible conflict.

Sixty-three Lebanese civilians were killed in air strikes on Wednesday, the deadliest toll in the nine-day war triggered by Israel's retaliation against Hizbollah's July 12 capture of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border operation.

($1=.7937 euro)