Aug 08 2020
By Michael Georgy
BEIRUT (Reuters) -
Several hundred protesters began gathering in Martyrs’ Square in the city centre for a demonstration to criticise the government’s handling of the biggest explosion in Beirut’s history. The blast in the port killed 154 people, injured 5,000 and destroyed a swathe of the city.
Some residents, struggling to clean up shattered homes, complain the government they
see as corrupt -
Several people said they were not at all surprised that French President Emmanuel Macron had visited their gutted neighbourhoods near the epicentre of the blast this week while Lebanese leaders had not.
“We are living in ground zero. I hope another country would just take us over. Our leaders are a bunch of corrupt people,” said psychologist Maryse Hayek, 48, whose parents’ house was destroyed in the explosion.
“I invite all honourable (lawmakers) to resign so that the people can decide who will govern them, without anybody imposing anything to them,” said party chief Samy Gemayel, announcing the move during the funeral of a leading member of the group who died in the explosion.
Macron, who visited Beirut on Thursday, promised angry crowds that aid to rebuild
the city would not fall into “corrupt hands”. He will host a donor conference for
Lebanon via video-
The prime minister and presidency have said 2,750 tonnes of highly explosive ammonium nitrate, which is used in making fertilisers and bombs, had been stored for six years without safety measures at the port warehouse.
President Michel Aoun said on Friday an investigation would examine whether it was caused by a bomb or other external interference. Aoun said the investigation would also weigh if the blast was due to negligence or an accident. Twenty people had been detained so far, he added.
“There is really nothing we can do. We can’t afford to rebuild and no one is helping us,” he said, standing beside a large teddy bear that was blown across his home, and a damaged photograph of him and his wife.
Officials have said the blast could have caused losses amounting to $15 billion.
That is a bill that Lebanon cannot pay after already defaulting on a mountain of
France and other countries have rushed emergency aid to Lebanon, including doctors, and tons of health equipment and food. The blast destroyed Lebanon’s only major grain silo and U.N. agencies are helping provide emergency food and medical aid.
Arab League Chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit said after a meeting with Aoun on Saturday he would seek to mobilise Arab efforts to provide support to Lebanon. Also speaking after meeting Aoun, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said his country is ready to help rebuild the port.