Anti-government protests break out in Beirut; security forces fire tear gas

WION Web Team
Beirut, Lebanon Published: Aug 07, 2020, 10:12 AM(IST)

Protests in Beirut Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Tuesday's blast killed nearly 150 people, wounded at least 5,000 and destroyed entire districts of the capital.

Lebanese security forces fired tear gas to disperse dozens of anti-government demonstrators angered by a cataclysmic blast on Thursday.

Tuesday's blast killed nearly 150 people, wounded at least 5,000 and destroyed entire districts of the capital. The death toll was expected to rise as rescue workers keep digging through the rubble. The blast zone is now a wasteland of blackened ruins, while whole neighbourhoods were largely destroyed.

Lebanese authorities said it was triggered by a fire igniting 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate negligently stored in a warehouse at Beirut's port since 2013. 

This raised questions as to how such a huge cargo of the highly explosive substance could have been left unsecured for so long. Its cause and aftermath are widely being seen as the most shocking expression yet of their government's incompetence.

The scuffles in central Beirut took place in a ravaged street leading to parliament, the wreckage from Tuesday's explosion still littering the entire area.

Protesters had sparked a blaze, vandalised stores and lobbed stones at security forces, according to the state-run National News Agency.

Also read | Beirut's accidental cargo: How an unscheduled port visit led to disaster

The explosion came as Lebanon was already knee-deep in its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

It added to the grievances of a protest movement that emerged in October to demand the removal of a political class deemed inept and corrupt.

Meanwhile, a petition to put Lebanon under a French mandate has garnered more than 50,000 signatures in 24 hours.

President Emmanuel Macron landed in Beirut on Thursday morning to show support for France's Middle East protege and former colonial-era protectorate.

Activists have called for a large anti-government demonstration on Saturday -- an event they have titled "hang them by the gallows." 

Thursday's scuffles erupted as Lebanon's ambassador to Jordan resigned, saying 'total negligence' by the country's authorities signalled the need for a leadership change.

It is the second such resignation over Tuesday's blast, after lawmaker Marwan Hamadeh also stepped down on Wednesday.

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